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Leaders’ speeches display Russia and China’s intentions at BRICS

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a bilateral meeting with President Évariste Ndayishimiye of the Republic of Burundi on the margins of BRICS Summit 2023 in Johannesburg. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a bilateral meeting with President Évariste Ndayishimiye of the Republic of Burundi on the margins of BRICS Summit 2023 in Johannesburg. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Published Aug 27, 2023


THE 15th BRICS summit in Sandton, Johannesburg, has shown that the economic collective has different expectations as opposed to its individual member states.

BRICS is made up of Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa.

During the first two days of the summit, each head of state propagated the growth of BRICS through its policies, but its members can’t seem to be on the same page in their individual pursuits.

“Our group of the five countries has rightly proved to be a credible entity in the global arena, with an ever growing influence in global affairs. The strategic course of BRICS is aimed at the future,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin on the second day.

Speaking via a video link, Putin continued to use his virtual pulpit to criticise the attacks from the United States and Western media over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its continued interactions with other countries.

He said that his country’s actions in Ukraine were guided by their one agenda: “…to put an end to the war unleased by the West.”

“I want to note that it was the desire to maintain their hegemony in the world, the desire of some countries to maintain this hegemony, that led to the severe crisis in Ukraine,” Putin said.

Russia’s president said that illegitimate sanctions were compounding the world’s socio-economic challenges. This was after Western countries, such as the US and the United Kingdom (UK), imposed harsh sanctions on the country following the invasion of Ukraine.

“International economy is also seriously affected by the illegitimate sanctions practise and illegal freezing of assets of sovereign states, which essentially amounts to trampling upon all the basic norms and rules of free trade and economic norms and rules that not so long seemed immutable.

“Resource shortages, increased inequality, rising unemployment, and aggravation of chronic problems of the world are the direct consequences,” he said.

Putin said that while much of the West attempted to isolate his country through sanctions and the arrest warrant, BRICS has continued to uphold its commitment to inclusion, as seen in how they resolved the issue of his attendance at the summit.

Putin called on the BRICS countries to expand settlements in national currencies and interbank cooperation.

Putin announced after long deliberations that he would attend the meeting virtually, while Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would physically attend on his behalf.

He said that Russia would welcome the group next year in the city of Kazan, when Russia assumes the chairmanship.

China’s President Xi Jinping looked at the BRICS purpose in pushing the development and research of artificial intelligence and similar technologies.

The President of the People’s Republic of China reminded leaders and the media of the BRICS purpose as a group to give the world more certainty, stability, and positivity.

Xi said that development was an inalienable right for all nations and not for a select few. He echoed the possibility of expanding the group, much like India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

“We should expand political and security cooperation to uphold peace and tranquillity. The Cold War mentality is still haunting our world, and the geo-political situation is getting tense,” Xi said in his plenary speech.

“BRICS countries should keep to the direction of peaceful development and consolidate the Brics strategic partnership.

“We need to make good use of the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, a meeting of high representatives on national security and other mechanisms; support each other on our core interests; and enhance coordination on major international and regional issues.”

Meanwhile the BRICS’s expansion is significant because it would give the bloc more influence over global economic decision-making, which is one of its ultimate goals.

The expansion also provides fuel for the conversation on de-dollarisation. It would also give the BRICS countries more power to shape the global trade agenda with more support for a BRICS common currency.

As Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said in a speech in April, “I am in favour of creating, within the BRICS, a trading currency between our countries, just like the Europeans created the euro.”

However, it is important to note that the BRICS countries are not a monolithic bloc. They have different interests and priorities. It is therefore unlikely that they would always act in concert.

The G7 and Western-dominant economies would still have a number of advantages over the BRICS countries. They have more advanced technology, financial resources, and experience in global governance.

It is therefore unlikely that the BRICS countries would pose an existential threat to the G7 and Western-dominant economies. However, they could become a more significant force in the global economy. This could lead to a more multipolar world order.