IN THE JOURNAL | GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
The united [`non-Western`] states of the world
January-March 2018
By: Yury Sigov

Obviously, no one within this organizational structure can be seriously engaged in "stagnated Brics expansion" except for China. However, it is still unclear whether the Chinese would be really interested in taking leadership of another regional (or global) structure that, without direct Chinese political and economic involvement, remains basically irrelevant. A "new Brics expansion" to include new members can mean more empty talks and meetings. But what about practical results?

So, what does any organization (Brics, the United Nations or whoever) really need to do to become effective and relevant to its members? Naturally, it is supposed to achieve concrete goals and should be assessed by its deeds. In addition, such activities should bring concrete results to its participants. But this is pure theory. As far as Brics and its recent activities are concerned, there has been neither the first nor the second since it was launched. Certain work is done, as with any bureaucracy: numerous reports are written by even more numerous officials, annual summits are prepared and duly staged, and leaders visit member countries. In reality, there have been few practical results.

Let`s look at the recent 9th Brics summit in Xiamen, in China`s Fujian Province. The five Brics leaders vowed to “improve global governance” and build “a better world” (like the current world order is definitely wrong and dysfunctional). They also vowed to build mutual trust and put greater faith in mutual cooperation. Sounds attractive? You bet. However, I am absolutely sure that it was the chief reason the senior Chinese leadership decided that it was necessary to do something practical with Brics and its frozen system. From the beginning, China decided to officially support the expansion of cooperation within the Brics framework. It means that this cooperation will be developed onward, not so much between the five current members of Brics but with other countries that are friendly to Beijing. What is curious is a proposal to expand Brics` membership to around 40 countries that Chinese leaders would consider as being friendly. It is unquestionable that these new members would be neighboring Asian states that may have only limited relations with South Africa or Brazil.

Let me remind you that when the Brics structure was created more than a decade ago, these countries from different continents had promising and fast-growing economies. They were incredibly attractive to foreign investment and their economic growth was mostly based on successful trade, rich and abundant natural resources, and relative political and economic independence from any pressure or interference in their affairs by the "collective West." But today`s picture is far from radiant and all the "good old memories" have faded. Russia, Brazil and South Africa have serious and long-term economic woes, China and India are almost on the brink of open military conflict in the Himalayas, and the very idea of ​​uniting those who do not like American hegemony is absolutely utopian.

What has really changed in the political and economic behavior of Brics countries during the passing years? First of all, they still do not, and in principle cannot, have any common strategic goal in their joint development. What is much more important is that they are all so tightly tied to the United States and the "collective West" that not one of them would think of severing or curtailing relations. Moreover, India, China, Brazil and South Africa (and, to a lesser extent, Russia) are trying to do their best to strengthen commercial and economic ties with leading Western countries, while their own relations within Brics remain insignificant and undeveloped. And here comes China and its decision to completely "redraw" the very concept of Brics by including friendly new members. Key Chinese politicians have already spoken on this issue, but the whole concept is still blurred. In my view, it is significant that China did not specifically consult with the other four Brics members and instead launched its own bilateral consultations with "potential Asian friends" to the organization. According to a statement by China`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "other major developing countries could also join Brics if they share its strategy goals and plans for economic prosperity of the Asian region."

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