Today, leaders of China, South Africa, Russia, Brazil and India are holding the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg.
BRICS is a bloc of emerging-market economies and this summit is opening a new chapter in their all-round cooperation after a successful decade.
At their three-day gathering in Johannesburg, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will join hands to further promote common development amid changes on the international scene.
Furthermore, building on the achievements of the previous BRICS summit in Xiamen, China, the member countries will seek ways to ensure their own growth benefits other developing countries.
Over the past 10 years, the BRICS countries have carried out substantial cooperation in an array of areas, laying a firm foundation for the bloc to play a larger role on the world stage, including in the global efforts to tackle climate change and promote sustainable development.
The New Development Bank, the bloc’s financial arm, offers a glimpse. Since its launch in July 2015, the Shanghai-headquartered bank has approved 21 projects worth 5.1 billion U.S. dollars.
This year, the bank will be opening its Americas regional office in Sao Paulo, Brazil; its Johannesburg-based African center began operations in 2017. This latest move will further extend and facilitate the bank’s financial services, making it a major player in South-South cooperation.
The bank focuses particularly on infrastructure and sustainable development. It funded four renewable energy projects in 2016 with its first batch of loans in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
With similar business decisions, the bank has helped BRICS to honor its commitment to the Paris climate deal and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, promote common development, and build its leadership in South-South cooperation.
Over the years, the BRICS have increased people-to-people ties, including through museum exhibitions, film festivals and educational programs, in order to boost understanding and trust between member states and consolidate the foundation for closer partnerships.
The organization has also established mechanisms for consultations at different levels and in various fields, seeking to speak in one strong voice on major regional and global issues of common concern.
BRICS has illustrated how countries of the South can actually work productively together, said Yazini April, a researcher at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council.
“The BRICS has set up a new stage for emerging economies which is what we are in need of,” April said.
That echoes sentiments by Reginah Mhaule, South Africa’s deputy international relations and cooperation minister.
“These countries are joined together by a strong desire to change the world system with the purpose of reflecting the diversity of the world power, economies, culture and the societies in general,” she said at a BRICS workshop in June.
“We can agree that it is a force to be reckoned with in the international arena and has contributed to an increased dispersal of global political and economic power,” Mhaule noted.
Furthermore, BRICS has grown into a significant force to safeguard and promote international fairness and justice.
For example, its members have helped increase the representation of developing countries in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in recent years, making the bloc — representing about 40 percent of the global population and a quarter of the world economy — an accelerator in reforming the global economic governance system.
Robert Lawrence Kuhn, chairman of the Kuhn Foundation and a longtime China expert, once commented: “Properly positioned, BRICS can facilitate the continuing emergence of the largest developing countries to participate fully in a new kind of global governance, which humanity so badly needs in the 21st century.”
In the opinion of Richard Levin, head of South Africa’s National School of Government, the BRICS could enhance global governance merely by reducing poverty, one of the priorities on the UN sustainable development agenda.
“It is one of the most important instruments to tackle poverty. The BRICS wants to play a role in transforming global governance not for the sake of transformation but for the sake of the people,” he said.
At a meeting in June in Pretoria, South Africa, BRICS foreign ministers made an appeal to safeguard multilateralism and a rules-based international order.
In a joint statement, they “reaffirmed the centrality” of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and international law. Also, they called for greater representation of emerging markets and developing countries in global decision-making, including in global economic governance, in order to reflect the current global landscape.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers pledged support for “an open and inclusive world economy enabling all countries and peoples to share the benefits of globalization,” with a firm commitment to free trade and a rules-based multilateral trading system.
In particular, the BRICS members voiced their opposition to “the new wave of protectionism and the systematic impact of unilateral measures that are incompatible with WTO rules,” and they highlighted the role of the WTO “to enhance security and predictability in international trade.”
At the start of a second decade of BRICS cooperation, just as Chinese President Xi Jinping has put it, for the bloc to gain enough strength, like five fingers of a hand, it should work together to form a fist that can punch.
China, seeking common growth amid new challenges, has urged the BRICS countries to find new economic growth drivers while coordinating macroeconomic policies, and to expand intra-BRICS cultural and people-to-people exchanges to beef up the foundation for the bloc’s solidarity and coordination.
Chen Fengying, a senior researcher on the global economy at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said that strengthening people-to-people and think-tank ties will help the BRICS countries unite in pushing for global governance reforms and confronting unilateralism in global trade.
On security cooperation, apart from fighting terrorism and extremism, she suggested that BRICS countries extend their cooperation to cover sectors including the internet, energy and finance.
Noting that the problem of imbalanced development worldwide is still undermining global growth, Chen emphasized the need to further economic cooperation among developing countries and emerging economies in a range of areas such as financing, e-commerce, intellectual property rights protection and investment facilitation.
“This is exactly where such a platform as BRICS can play a better role,” she said. “And by developing itself well, it can take the lead in South-South cooperation so as to benefit more countries.”