BRICS Summit proves important platform for cooperation on challenges
Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and other leaders of BRICS countries pose for a group photo before the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian Province, Sept. 4, 2017. [Photo: Xinhua/Zhang Duo]
By Alexander B. Pevzner
The coming 9th BRICS summit has already shown itself a success, even before it started. For proof, look no further than the recent breakthrough in the bilateral relationship between China and India. This is a good example of the importance of multilateral platforms that can help member-states improve their bilateral ties and work out the differences.
In Sept. 3-5, China will chair the 2017 Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa for the 9th BRICS Summit in southeastern coastal city of Xiamen, Fujian, with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending. China had hosted the 2011 summit in Sanya, Hainan. The coming summit has already contributed to the China-India relationship simply because it would have been impossible for Xi and Modi to meet if the two countries hadn’t reached a rapprochement over their border standoff.
China participates in, or has initiated, other multilateral platforms, for example the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO), or the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA). But since the BRICS countries are home to more than two-fifths of the world’s population, have a combined gross domestic product of over US$16 trillion, and are seen as the engine of global economic growth, cooperation within the developing nations club is especially important.
Over the past ten years, since the bloc was formed, the five countries contributed to about half of global economic growth. The bloc has also created a US$100 billion New Development Bank and a US$100 billion emergency fund. While China’s economy is bigger than the four other members combined, there are many issues on which the five members, as well as developing nations, can and should work together, for instance global financial governance.
The summit is expected to produce a summary of progress achieved by BRICS heretofore and outline a vision for future cooperation. What’s more, the bloc may seek ways to expand into a "BRICS Plus" model, allowing a more inclusive partnership with more developing countries and providing further opportunities for other economies.
When China assumed the chairmanship of the summit this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping set the theme for Xiamen as “BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future.” Specifically, China raised four goals that the partnership should advance: upholding world peace (for example, common security); promoting common development (for instance, financial integration), carrying diversity (people-to-people contacts), and improving global economic governance.
While the five BRICS countries may view their economic, political, and foreign policy interests in different ways, the summit is an important platform to overcome such hurdles and to work out coordinated answers to common threats, such as global financial management, trade, and terror, among others. The rapidly evolving geopolitical scene offers no shortage of conflicts, and it is important to have as many multilateral cooperation and dialogue platforms as possible.
The fact of the matter remains that all five BRICS, as well as other developing nations, and basically all countries, need a stable and peaceful environment to coexist and to focus on economic development at home and on trade globally. The global economy needs more cooperation, more trade, and a more stable financial environment to benefit mankind.
For instance, China and India, the two largest members of the BRICS group, have a combined economic size of US$13.5 trillion, and together make up 2.7 billion of the world’s population. The benefits of peaceful and economic cooperation between the two giants are self-evident. China and India emphasized their wish for a mutually beneficial relationship, and the aim to utilize multilateral frameworks including the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Council.
Hence, the world breathed a sigh of relief after the Chinese and Indian leadership made the wise decision to reach a peaceful solution over the standoff in the Dong Lang, or Doklam plateau. The prospects of a military confrontation would have been too terrible to imagine. The coming BRICS summit is a welcome and timely opportunity for both sides to further showcase goodwill and move ahead positively.
However, the crisis hasn’t yet reached a complete solution. As both China and India, the two largest and the fastest-growing economies of the BRICS club, become increasingly important in global governance, there is a growing risk of unwanted and unintended frictions, of the likes we witnessed across their long border. The two countries may lack an immediate mechanism of how to reduce these harmful tensions, but the Xiamen Summit may be just the ticket for direct talks.
Thus, the BRICS summit will provide a crucial opportunity for Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi to meet face to face on the sidelines and continue the process of improving bilateral relations. This author is convinced that both sides will ensure the visit will be a successful one. Russia, another important member of the club, will likely also play a constructive role in working out the differences.
And while China and India were quietly working toward a diplomatic solution for the standoff, it’s worth emphasizing that the mere fact of holding the BRICS summit in Xiamen may have hastened a resolution to the crisis. In other words, the multilateral platform proved conducive to resolving bilateral issues, which is the first concrete result of the meeting, even before it began.
Alexander B. Pevzner is the Founding Director of The Chinese Media Center (CMC), at the School of Media Studies, The College of Management Academic Studies, Rishon LeZion, Israel, and a senior advisor to the Silk Road Group.