By Olav Odegard
Commentator in VG. Former foreign journalist and correspondent of VG in the USA. Writes primarily on international affairs.
To become the most powerful superpower in the world, China must build a new world order. In this work, the Brics constitute an important basic element.
Brics stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This week, the leaders of the BRICS countries are meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.
A manager is absent. Vladimir Putin is wanted internationally for war crimes and does not dare to go to Johannesburg. His replacement is Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Putin participates digitally when China’s Xi Jinping, Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s Narendra Modi and Cyril Ramaphosa meet to discuss admitting new members to the club and the inevitable unofficial topic, the war in Ukraine.
The Brics group has existed since 2009. Brazil, India, South Africa, China and Russia together represent 40% of the world’s population. These countries represent 25 percent of the global economy.
The group is often presented as a counterweight to the Western powers of the G7 group, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, the United States and the EU. But the Brics family consists of both dictatorships and democracies. There are more things that divide than unite these great countries spread across four continents. They also don’t mean the same thing when they talk about a new and better world order.
The BRICS are a meeting place for a group of countries with different interests. One of the few concrete results of the BRICS is a bank that grants loans to developing countries, as an alternative to the World Bank.
The five countries are not equal. China is the economic giant of space. It is China that pulls the strings.
Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to use Brics cooperation in the global rivalry with the United States. China welcomes more countries, so that the BRICS can become as strong an economic bloc as the G7 is today. Brick by brick, China will build an alternative to the democratic and liberal world order built in the decades following World War II.
China will build alliances with other authoritarian regimes to weaken the influence of Western countries, especially in Africa and Asia. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates wish to become members of the BRICS. Iran and Belarus would like to join. Indonesia and Egypt have shown interest.
Xi said countries should quickly join the BRICS and “unite their wisdom so that the world can be governed more justly and reasonably.”
Oppressive regimes such as those in Iran and Saudi Arabia must therefore come together to create greater justice in the world. This says it all about what characterizes Xi’s alternative to the model of Western liberal democracies.
Dozens of countries have expressed interest in joining and several are participating as observers at the Johannesburg summit. While China wants the club to expand globally, countries like Brazil and India are more skeptical.
The Brazilian Lula has already declared that he does not want to oppose the Brics to the G7, the G20 or the United States. South African President Ramaphosa said the five countries want a more balanced world order. With the Brazilian Lula, he wants the nations of the South to have a stronger and more independent voice on the international scene.
India has excellent relations with the United States and strained relations with China.
Modi does not want to be reduced to a pawn in China’s great power game against the United States. China and India are competitors and not so long ago the two countries were fighting bloody battles in a disputed border area.
There are internal contradictions within the Bric group, particularly with regard to the war waged by Russia against Ukraine. Several countries are trying to adopt a neutral position, but China has given political support to Putin and India has significantly increased its trade with Russia.
When the BRICS countries talk about war, they can only agree on non-binding statements regarding dialogue and negotiations.
Putin has his own agenda. He wants to show that Russia still has international partners and that the country is not isolated because of the war against Ukraine and Western sanctions. However, the fact that he cannot travel to Johannesburg himself undermines this narrative. Putin is ostracized and wanted. He can only participate by video link.
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