The proforma communique emanating from the 14th BRICS Summit last week was, not to put too fine a point on it, precisely that and not much else. There was the derigueur underlining of first principles as the five member-states vowed, yet again, to work together under the aegis of the Summit’s theme ~ this time around titled “Foster High Quality BRICS Partnership, Usher in the New Era for Global Development” ~ to overcome the global food and energy crises. Ho-hum. This is not to mock the grouping comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa which represents the world’s emerging markets and major developing countries; indeed, BRICS was a great idea when it was first mooted.
But the lack of intragroup mutual bliss-points, as it were, are conspicuous by their absence. The elusive cementing factor which would encourage BRICS to operate in sync has bedevilled one of the on-paper most significant bloc of nations in the world. The reason for that , it has been argued, is China. Confirmation, if any were needed, that in Beijing’s strategic calculus BRICS is just another potential counterweight in its long game of taking over from the United States of America as the global superpower with little or no independent value came from President Xi Jinping himself.
Addressing the Summit via video link, President Xi, in an interesting formulation, urged member-states to work jointly to protect their “core interests” thereby promoting “stability” and rejecting “hegemony, bullying, and division”. Now, Beijing’s stated position on its core interests ~ from Taiwan to Tibet and the South China Sea in terms of territorial claims, the Korean Peninsula to Southeast Asia as its sphere of influence, and in vast swathes of Africa, South America and Central Asia to protect its rare minerals sources and ensure energy security ~ is non-negotiable. Additionally, he insinuated that China’s unique model of state-capitalism led economic growth; lack of individual liberty, and disregard for conventional democratic structures was working just fine when he iterated that the world is currently beset by the “dark clouds of (a) Cold War mentality, power politics, and emerging traditional and non-traditional security threats”.
BRICS, according to Mr Xi, could by showing solidarity safeguard world peace and usher in tranquillity at a time when “some countries are attempting to expand military alliances to seek absolute security, stoke bloc-based confrontation by coercing other countries into picking sides, and pursue unilateral dominance at the expense of others’ rights and interests.” Read, let’s get together to scupper the Americans. By raising the spectre of turbulence and insecurity allegedly due to the policies of the US-led West, Beijing clearly wants to use BRICS as a strategic counterweight to America even as the Western world, stunned by what is sees as Russia’s aggressive posture towards its interests, strives to prevent a much more powerful China from going down the same path. And that more or less writes the epitaph for BRICS as a viable global bloc with a convergence of economic and/or security interests between its five member-states.