The BRICS expansion is a major win for China as it attempts to position itself as the leader of the global south, said Matthew Kroenig, a columnist at Foreign Policy and vice-president and senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.
It is also discouraging to see countries that had been long-standing US partners, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, cozy up to Beijing. BRICS seems to be positioning itself as a new axis of authoritarians in contrast to the G-7 club of democracies. Of the potential new members, only Argentina is rated as free, according to Freedom House, Kroneig said.
Adam Gallagher of the US Institute of Peace said the debate over BRICS expansion reveals how divided the bloc really is – it also demonstrates structural issues that make the development of a common currency unlikely.
As US-China competition has ramped up over the last decade, Beijing has increasingly sought to position itself as the leader of an emerging multipolar world, he said.
Its Global Security Initiative, launched last year by Chinese President Xi Jinping, is an attempt to fashion a new global security order that Beijing says is more capable of addressing intractable peace and conflict challenges than the Western-led system.
With BRICS already accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP, adding to the bloc means that BRICS would be stronger and more influential group, further advancing multipolarity, he added.
For its part, Moscow is also keen on advancing a multipolar world and see BRICS expansion has a way to undermine the liberal international order.
Isolated by the West following its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has looked to the Global South to help keep its economy afloat, he added. So, a bigger BRICS helps insulate Moscow from Western sanctions and opprobrium. And the attendance of dozens of countries at the summit will be seen by Moscow as a positive signal regarding its international standing.
Henry Tugendhat, an economist with the China team at the United States Institute of Peace, said while a lot of analysis is focused on how China has tried to drive the expansion of this grouping, to say, counterbalance and institution like the G7.
“I think, really, what the risk ahead is that they’ve created, inadvertently, something a bit closer to the G20 in that they have now a much larger organisation with no Secretariat, no legal authority over the decisions and often no consensus,” Tugendhat said.
Just as China dominates the BRICS by dint of being twice the size of all the others combined, so the US is now bigger than the rest of the G7 combined. The US and China dominate their respective groups even more than they did in the past, said Jim O’ Neill, creator of the acronym ‘BRIC’, who worked for Goldman Sachs from 1995 until April 2013, spending most of his time there as Chief Economist.
In July 2021, Lord O’Neill became a member of the panel of Senior Advisors to Chatham House, having finished his term as Chair.
What these dynamics suggest is that neither the G7 nor the BRICS (expanded or otherwise) makes much sense for tackling today’s global challenges. Neither can do much without the direct, equal involvement of the other.
What the world really needs is a resurrected G20, which already includes all the same key players, plus others. It remains the best forum for addressing truly global issues such as economic growth, international trade, climate change, pandemic prevention, and so on, he said.
Though it now faces significant challenges, it still can reclaim the spirit of 2008-10, when it coordinated the international response to the global financial crisis. At some point, the US and China will have to overcome their differences and allow the G20 to return to its central position, he added.