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BRICS nations leading the push for fairer multilateral world order

By SHEN YI | 2016-11-23 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)



Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a dialogue between BRICS and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) leaders on emerging economy cooperation in the western Indian state of Goa on Oct. 16, 2016.


Since the first meeting of foreign ministers of the initial four BRIC states—Brazil, Russia, India and China—in 2006, the bloc, which became the BRICS after the inclusion of South Africa in 2010, has undergone vigorous development in cooperation and coordination.

The eighth BRICS summit in Goa, India from Oct. 15 to 16 is an example of this. The summit saw the release of the Goa Declaration as well as the signing of a memorandum of understanding and documents on agricultural research, customs cooperation and other areas.

In the process, the BRICS countries showed their commitment to promoting reform of global governance in order to establish a fair and rational new international political and economic order. The international community has been divided in its understanding of the bloc’s strategic intentions since the term “BRIC” was coined in 2001 by then-chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management Jim O’Neill.

On the one hand, groups with vested interests in the existing international system tend to narrowly define BRICS as an organization that focuses on global economic governance. They insist on using economic growth as the sole criterion for evaluating the BRICS nations. Out of conscious or unconscious anxiety, it has even become common for them to predict decline, negation or disintegration of the BRICS countries.

On the other hand, in addition to their own needs and the reality of the international system, the BRICS nations have begun to pay increasing attention to the needs of emerging economies and the vast number of developing countries. As a consequence, the bloc is positioned to be a constructive force in reforming global governance.


Goa Declaration
This ambition can be seen in the breadth and depth of the topics covered in the Goa Declaration. The declaration stresses open cooperation and enhanced coordination in coping with global challenges. The BRICS nations are determined to follow a new model of major-country relations characterized by constructive participation and inclusive competition, which provides an alternative to the two traditional patterns: zero-sum game and alliance.

In the declaration, China and Russia reiterate the important role of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs while supporting their expectations to play a greater role in the United Nations. This shows that the BRICS countries have made a significant breakthrough in strategic cooperation within the international system.

Nowadays, the BRICS countries boast greater comparative advantages in advancing global development, laying a solid foundation for further cooperation. In his speech at the Goa Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that in the past decade, the proportion of the five nations in the world economy has increased from 12 percent to 23 percent, that of trade volume has increased from 11 percent to 16 percent and that of foreign investment has increased from 7 percent to 12 percent.

In addition, quality of life has improved for 3 billion people. The influence and status of the BRICS nations are improving. The BRICS countries jointly addressed the international financial crisis and have contributed to global economic and financial stability. According to a report by the International Monetary Fund, the BRICS countries have contributed more than half of world economic growth in the past decade.

In this era themed “Peace and Development,” the essence of strategic game-playing on the systemic level among the major powers is more of a competition in terms of models and capacity for development. The extent to which a nation can achieve effective development and contribute to the improvement of the international system significantly determines its international influence.

The fact that the BRICS countries have achieved remarkable development while simultaneouslcontributing tremendously to the global economy has shown that the BRICS countries seek to foster a new type of development that is non-exclusive. Therefore, the BRICS countries, which provide the world with experience, values, and reference models naturally, in a new way, also gain more influence in the global system.

Last of all, following post-Cold War trends of global governance, the BRICS countries have deepened and broadened practical partnerships, which has inevitably brought them to a stage of cooperation in multiple issues, including security, development and environmental protection.
The Goa Declaration includes major issues ranging from UN reform, counter-terrorism, regional peace and security, nuclear proliferation, environmental protection and economic development, which basically completely and comprehensively covers all the issues in global governance.

And that is the inevitable result of deepened practical cooperation among the BRICS countries following the inherent trend toward multi-polarization in global governance after the Cold War. In order to achieve sustainable development, it is the intrinsic requirement of the international system today to construct plural, diversified, elastic and flexible models that suit each individual country.

Identically, increasingly complicated global issues also require innovative models for global governance. Against this background, the BRICS countries, which have shown continued and remarkable development despite different cultural backgrounds and histories, represent a different voice when participating in the system of global governance. And it is inevitable that the BRICS countries will actively and constructively make substantial reforms to the global governance system, pushing it in a more diversified and plural direction.  


Future prospect
The diversity and difference among the BRICS countries as well as the complicated development of global governance system mean that they have to find unprecedented models for cooperation. In the next decade or more, to deepen their practical cooperation, the BRICS countries may work on following major domains:

The first task is to solidify practical cooperation mechanisms that are elastic and suit the reality of all BRICS countries, and to establish cooperative mechanism in a way that is transparent, flexible, comfortable and durable.

The insufficiency and the notable differences among the BRICS nations have long been seen by the mainstream media and academia in the European countries and the United States as the major challenges facing future cooperation. The diversity and difference among the BRICS countries means that they cannot simply copy the experience of institutional cooperation in developed countries. And to solidify and promote the cooperative mechanism are now the objective needs both internal and external. 

The cooperative mechanism should be transparent to alleviate the doubts of the outside world about the future prospects of BRICS. It should also be flexible, so that it may release the pressure brought by the differences among the BRICS countries. Also the cooperative mechanism should be consensus based, because all the decisions should and can only be made unanimously by all members. Therefore, to find the greatest commonality among the various interests of the BRICS countries and maximize consensus really requires the political wisdom and strategic capacity of all members. The mechanism should also be durable, and that is the core requirement of the international system, especially the change of the global governance system on the BRICS countries.   

Secondly, practical cooperation in development should be promoted. Cooperation in domains like major basic infrastructure construction will promote the interconnection and intercommunication among the BRICS countries and eventually lay a solid foundation for practical cooperation.

The BRICS countries should establish solid ground based on common interest. And considering the need for development and the strategic role basic infrastructure plays in the progress, in the next five to 10 years, we should set a road map for cooperation on long-term projects like infrastructure construction.

The ultimate objective of this road map—besides promoting interconnection and intercommunication among the BRICS countries— should be to ensure that BRICS will be able to provide the rest of developing countries in the world with the major infrastructure construction they need. And BRICS should take practical actions to promote their influence and voice in global issues on development, as well as to improve the strategic power of developing countries as a united force in bargaining and game playing.   

Third, the BRICS countries should improve meeting mechanisms, such as the BRICS Business Council, to ensure that a long-term and permanent mechanism, which focuses on specific topics, will still be working between the BRICS summits. The deepening cooperation among the BRICS countries requires the bloc to constantly provide both the member countries and the globe with attractive and benign products that have positive effects. And companies, universities and research facilities should be encouraged to participate in the establishment of a pragmatic cooperation community that circles the BRICS countries.  

Great achievements have been made by the BRICS countries in recent years, and more can be expected to be achieved with reform of the global governance system and the hard work of continuingly deepening and broadening pragmatic cooperation. 


Shen Yi is director of the Center for BRICS Studies at Fudan University.