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The 15th BRICS Summit: A New Chapter in Global Dynamics

News | Aug 28, 2023

IMF Brics expansion Equal partnership of unequals - The 15th BRICS Summit:  A New Chapter in Global Dynamics

The 15th BRICS Summit marked a significant milestone in the history of the organization, which consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, and 6 new invitees

  • The summit was not just another meeting but a transformative event that could reshape global geopolitics. The key highlight was the expansion of BRICS, inviting 6 new members to join the bloc.  This move aims to strengthen the organization's global influence and diversify its economic and political reach.
  • The BRICS nations originally came together in the late 2000s to coalesce around issues of finance, development, and trade. The bloc now symbolizes one side of the ledger in a world of strategic rivalry and growing multipolarity.  The table below compares 'Founding Members' and 'New Invitee' members, largely emerging economies, across a variety of trade and global metrics drawn from Visual Capitalist's - Bric's expansion in 4 charts:
#CountryBRICS PositionContinentPopulationGDP (USD billions)Oil Production (Thousand Barrels per Day)Exports (USD billions)
3BrazilFoundingSouth America216,422,446$2,0813,107334
5South AfricaFoundingAfrica60,414,495$3990123
6EthiopiaNew InviteeAfrica126,527,060$15603.9
7EgyptNew InviteeAfrica112,716,598$38761349
8IranNew InviteeAsia89,172,767$3683,82273
9ArgentinaNew InviteeSouth America45,773,884$64170688
10Saudi ArabiaNew InviteeAsia36,947,025$1,06212,136410
11UAENew InviteeAsia9,516,871$4994,020599

Now you've seen the table, here's the corresponding visual

Visual Capitalist BRICS expansion in 4 charts - The 15th BRICS Summit:  A New Chapter in Global Dynamics

Image: Visual Capitalist BRICS expansion in 4 charts

So what are the value propositions of some key BRICs members?

  • China's Position: The expansion was seen as a victory for China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who strongly advocated for the rapid addition of new members.
  • India's Concerns: Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India expressed reservations about adding nations close to Beijing, given the existing border disputes and potential adversarial relations between India and China.
  • Iran's Perspective: Mohammad Jamshidi, Iran’s vice president for politics, termed the invitation to join BRICS as a “historic achievement and a strategic victory.”  With the world’s second-largest gas reserves and significant oil reserves, Iran's inclusion in BRICS is seen as a move to strengthen its ties with non-Western powers. This could potentially increase geopolitical tensions with the West.

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  • Saudi Arabia's Stance: Speaking at the summit, the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, emphasized the shared belief in “respecting the independence and sovereignty of states, and not interfering in their affairs.” Their inclusion is likely to bolster the bloc's influence, especially in challenging the U.S.-dominated world order.  However, he indicated that Saudi Arabia had not yet decided on joining BRICS.
  • Argentina: Facing one of its worst financial crises, Argentina views BRICS membership as an economic opportunity.
  • Egypt: With growing trade ties with China and a strong relationship with Russia, Egypt's inclusion in BRICS could help it diversify its economic partnerships.
  • Ethiopia: After two years of civil war, Ethiopia sees BRICS as an opportunity to rebuild and strengthen its international ties.

Key Takeaways from the Summit, and next steps

  • The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit in Johannesburg is pivotal for the bloc's future direction. Over 40 countries have applied to join, but there's division among the current members.
  • The summit isn't formally discussing "de-dollarization," but many BRICS countries are keen on reducing dependence on the U.S. dollar. The BRICS bank already lends in Chinese yuan and has announced plans to lend in South African and Brazilian currencies.
  • The BRICS nations represent a significant portion of global emerging markets. They initially came together to focus on finance, development, and trade. Now, they symbolize a side in the global strategic rivalry, with the G7 on the opposing side.

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  • The expansion of BRICS is a major theme of the summit. Membership offers benefits like financing from the New Development Bank. However, the expansion could also lead to challenges in decision-making due to the consensus-based approach of the bloc.
  • The U.S. needs to monitor the evolution of BRICS closely. Engaging with friends like India and South Africa is crucial to ensure the bloc doesn't lean towards an anti-Western alignment. The U.S. should consider remaking the current multilateral order to address global concerns.
    • The U.S. should foster robust engagements with BRICS countries, especially those like India and South Africa, to ensure a balanced trajectory for the bloc.
    • Washington should not overly rely on minilateral diplomacy and should engage even with adversaries in larger platforms to collaboratively address global challenges.

Unequal Partnership?

When South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the expansion of BRICS in a media briefing at the end of last week’s summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, he described the bloc as "an equal partnership of countries that have differing views but have a shared vision for a better world."  However, China's overwhelming economic dominance, being two and a half times larger than India's economy and surpassing the combined GDP of the other nine members, raises questions about the true balance of power within the bloc.

Amidst this backdrop, a Pew Research Group survey reveals skepticism about China's global role, with many BRICS partners doubting China's consideration of their national interests in international policies.

In conclusion

The 15th BRICS Summit has undeniably ushered in a new era of global dynamics, expanding its horizons and solidifying its stance on the world stage. While the inclusion of new members promises to amplify the bloc's global influence, it also brings forth challenges, especially considering the economic disparities within the group. China's pronounced economic clout within BRICS raises pertinent questions about the equilibrium of power and decision-making.

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As nations come together under the BRICS umbrella, striving for a shared vision of a better world, it's imperative for the international community, especially the U.S., to engage proactively and constructively. The evolving landscape of BRICS offers both opportunities and challenges, and how these are navigated will shape the future of global geopolitics.

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