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BRICS Will Alter the World

Sep 05, 2023
  • Wang Youming

    Senior Research Fellow of BRICS Economic Think Tank, Tsinghua University


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chinese President Xi Jinping during the 15th Brics Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 24. Photo: EPA-EFE

As global governance is faced with the compound effect of imbalance and inefficiency, the development of the global order in the post-pandemic era has come to a crossroads. At this critical juncture, the BRICS Summit was held in South Africa, with Africa steering the agenda.

The discussions were well focused. China also played a prominent role at the summit. The BRICS group has achieved a landmark expansion: It is set to welcome six new member countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, Iran and United Arab Emirates, who were drawn from a large pool of applicants. A BRICS group with growing strength is becoming an important force for shaping the international landscape. It is bound to fundamentally alter the contours of the world.

The biggest news of the summit was the expansion of membership. Nearly 50 countries had expressed their interest in joining the BRICS family as part of a worldwide “BRICS wave.” It is a rare phenomenon in the history of international multilateral cooperation that countries scramble to join a multilateral mechanism led by developing countries an emerging markets. This BRICS whirlwind demonstrates the fundamental driving forces behind the major changes and adjustments in the international order, primarily in four aspects:

• First, the global governance system dominated by America and the West has failed, and the Western model underpinned by hegemony and power politics is deeply unpopular.

• Second, the majority of developing countries and emerging markets will not sit on the periphery of the political stage in the 21st century. Rather, they want to pool their strength to attain global institutional power commensurate with their weight, so that through solidarity and unity, they will play a leading role on the international political stage.

• Third, the 17 years since the inception of the BRICS mechanism shows that BRICS is not just a “talk shop” but an “action squad” capable of changing the international landscape. Institutions such as the New Development Bank are signature outcomes of the BRICS mechanism. This bank and other physical institutions have become the BRICS mechanism’s golden signboard.

• Fourth, the BRICS mechanism does not reinvent the wheel, nor does it attempt to engage in camp confrontation or replace any existing institution. That position ensures that countries in the Global South that aspire to join the group do not have to take sides.

It is these four factors that have continuously empowered the BRICS mechanism by increasing its appeal and influence through openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation like never before.

After their selection — following careful consideration — six countries stood out as prospective new members, based on the need for regional balance. The six countries are from Asia, Africa and Latin America, regions composed of a vast number of developing countries. This demonstrates the BRICS group is firmly anchored in the Global South.


Meanwhile, the BRICS membership expansion takes into account the inherent features of the BRICS mechanism, as the six new members all carry the basic attributes of being emerging market countries as measured by total GDP, per capita GDP and economic growth rate. In addition to regional balance and economic aggregate of the six countries carry some political weight in their respective regions and play an important geopolitical role.

The expanded BRICS will stand as a historic new starting point, making its influence felt globally and profoundly changing the world on three levels:

• First, it will fundamentally change the world’s economic landscape. Before the expansion, five of the countries already accounted for one-fourth of the world’s economic output. In terms of purchasing power, their share of the global economy reached 31.5 percent, exceeding the 30.7 percent of the U.S.-led G7. The total economic volume of the 11 countries after the expansion is even more impressive, and BRICS as a group is well positioned to contribute more to global economic growth.

It is worth mentioning that the new member countries are generally rich in mineral resources, and oil transactions settled in local currency will provide a strong boost to the movement away from the U.S. dollar. The 11 BRICS countries will join hands to push for quota reform at the IMF and the World Bank, thus transforming the West-led Bretton Woods system and reshaping the global financial architecture.

• Second, it will profoundly change the global geopolitical security architecture. At present, in the context of ongoing global geopolitical conflicts, two starkly contrasting security concepts are at play:

One is advocacy of political diplomacy to resolve problems in geopolitical hot spots, informed by the BRICS security concept of common, comprehensive and sustainable security. The other is to provide military support to parties to the conflict, which is tantamount to fighting proxy wars, as with the Western concept of security based on alliances and raw power.

The new BRICS security concept is widely recognized by the Global South, which is why the vast majority of developing countries refused to follow the U.S. in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The expansion of BRICS means growth in the forces of peace in the world, and the expanded BRICS will inject more stability and positive energy into the unstable international order. This will be conducive to the formation of a new global political and security pattern based on the principle of peaceful development.

• Third, it will further usher in a new paradigm of global governance and rebalance its structure. On the three core questions related to global governance — Who should govern? What should be governed? How should it be governed? — The BRICS view is different from that of the United States and the West.

On the question of who should govern, the BRICS countries believe that everyone should be consulted on global affairs, rather than dictated to by who have the strongest muscle or the loudest voice. Countries, big or small, rich or poor, are all equal participants in global governance.

On the issue of what to govern, the BRICS countries believe that development should be front and center, and priority should be given to the governance of common challenges such as climate change, food security, pandemics, etc., instead of the United States and the West focusing on the construction of a security system of alliances for their own self-interest.

On the issue of how to govern, the BRICS countries advocate consulting each other as equals on global affairs. All should cooperate extensively and share the benefits. It is fair to say that the BRICS view of global governance has transcended hegemonic governance and power governance. It creates a new paradigm of equal governance, common governance and shared governance. An expanded BRICS will advance and entrench this new pattern of governance as it becomes more widely recognized.

China has played an active leading role in this round of historic expansion, which has been highly endorsed and recognized by participating countries. China has long advocated openness and inclusiveness in the BRICS mechanism and welcomes like-minded developing countries and emerging markets to join the BRICS family.

Thirteen years ago, on China’s initiative, South Africa joined BRICS in its first round of expansion. In 2017, China creatively put forward the concept of BRICS+, calling for more developing countries to participate in the BRICS development process. China held the rotating presidency of BRICS in 2022. In that Year of China, member countries formed a consensus on expansion. Now, in the Year of South Africa, China is lending strong support for hosting the summit. I has actively played a coordinating role, sought common ground and reached a consensus on the criteria, principles and procedures for expansion, culminating in a second round of expansion — a milestone in the history of BRICS development.

Traveling alone, you can go fast. Traveling together, you can go far. The giant ship of BRICS, with its expanded membership, will set sail with greater expectations in the Global South. BRICS members will practice true multilateralism, promote democracy in international relations and build equity in the global governance system. They will ultimately achieve the goal of rebalancing the global power structure for which the group has been striving.

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