China, Russia and South Africa Perspectives on BRICS Expansion
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Within the current global geopolitical changes, growing support is fast underway to give enough preparations for Saudi Arabia and possibly a few others to join BRICS, an organization comprised Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. China will hand over the chair to South Africa in early 2023.
China and Russia have been pushing for the expansion of BRICS, soliciting support for the multipolar global governance system instead of the existing rules-based unipolar directed by the United States. Often explained that a bigger BRICS primarily offers huge opportunities among the group members and developing countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club held on October 27, reaffirmed Russia’s unshakable support for Saudi Arabia joining BRICS. “Yes, we support it, but this requires a consensus of all the BRICS countries,” he said.
According to him, Saudi Arabia is a rapidly developing country, which is due not only to its leading position in the hydrocarbon market. “This is also due to the fact that the Crown Prince, the government of Saudi Arabia, has very big plans for diversifying the economy, which is very important. They have entire national development plans designed for this goal,” the Russian President said.
He expressed confidence that, given the enthusiasm and creativity of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, these plans will be implemented. “Therefore, of course, Saudi Arabia deserves to be a member of major international organizations, such as the BRICS and such as the SCO. Most recently, we determined the status of Saudi Arabia in the SCO and will develop relations with this country both bilaterally and on multilateral platforms,” Putin added.
With the current global unstable situation creating skyrocketing uncertainties in global economic recovery, China has unreservedly shown its contribution to strengthening BRICS. For 16 years since its inception, China has offered the largest financial support for the BRICS National Development Bank and contributed tremendously to other directions, including health, education and economic collaboration among the group.
That is why BRICS has gained extensive recognition. More and more countries are willing and interested in becoming members of BRICS, making joint efforts to overcome difficulties and challenges, and realize common development and prosperity.
On May 19, China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired a video conference dialogue between foreign ministers of BRICS countries and their counterparts from emerging economies and developing countries. It was the first BRICS Plus dialogue at the level of foreign ministers. Participants in the dialogue came from BRICS countries as well as invited countries such as Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Thailand.
According to Wang Yi, the dialogue’s importance was to further expand cooperation between the BRICS countries and other emerging and developing countries. In addition, Wang Wenbin, during his weekly media briefing on October 20, explained that as the BRICS chair for this year, China has actively supported the BRICS in starting the membership expansion process and advanced the “BRICS Plus” cooperation.
During the 14th BRICS summit successfully held in June 2022, President Xi Jinping noted at the meeting that BRICS countries gather not in a closed club or an exclusive circle but in a big family of mutual support and a partnership for win-win cooperation. At the summit, BRICS leaders reached important common understandings about BRICS expansion and expressed support for discussion on the standards and procedures of the expansion.
“This has been well received in the international community, and many countries have expressed interest in joining the BRICS. China supports and welcomes this. Going forward, China will work with fellow BRICS members to steadily proceed with the BRICS expansion process and enable more partners to join this promising endeavour,” Wenbin said at the media briefing.
Despite its large population of 1.5 billion, which many have considered an impediment, China pursues admirable collaborative strategic diplomacy with external countries, which has made it attain superpower status over Russia. A careful study and analysis monitored by this author vividly show that muscle-flexing Russia largely lacks public outreach diplomacy, Russia contributing towards its own “cancel culture” policy, and this is seriously detrimental to the emerging new global order.
South Africa was a late minor addition to the group, to add a bridgehead to Africa, says Charles Robertson, Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital. All the BRICS countries are facing economic challenges that need addressing urgently. The BRICS is keenly aware of the importance of contributing to Africa’s development agenda.
“Therefore, it could expand because the BRICS are under-represented in the global financial architecture. Europe and the United States dominate institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and to some extent many others,” explained Robertson in an emailed query.
According to him, “Russia and others in the BRICS would like to see larger power centres emerge to offer an alternative to that Western-dominated construct. That is reasonable enough – providing there are countries with the money to backstop the new institutions, such as China supporting the BRICS bank, and if the countries offer an alternative vision that provides benefits to new members.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has repeatedly said that BRICS as a dynamic group would usher in a new global development era that promises a system of more inclusive, sustainable and fair principles. BRICS group, in an expanded form, can support a sustainable and equitable global economic recovery.
For South Africa, Ramaphosa further believes that the BRICS is simply a highly-valuable platform fixed to strengthen ties with partner countries in support of South Africa’s economic growth and for discussing global economic problems and challenges and strengthening the role of developing countries.
After his official visit to Saudi Arabia in mid-October, President Ramaposa said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud had expressed the desire to join BRICS. “The Crown Prince did express Saudi Arabia’s desire to be part of BRICS. They are not the only country seeking membership in BRICS,” according to the local radio station ABC.
Ramaphosa reminded that South Africa will hold the BRICS rotating presidency in 2023. “That BRICS summit next year under the chairship of South Africa, the matter of expanding BRICS is going to be under serious consideration. A number of countries are consistently making approaches to BRICS members, and we have given them the same answer, that the BRICS partners will discuss it, and thereafter, a collective decision will be made,” the president elaborated.
Historically, the group’s first meeting began in St Petersburg in 2005. It was called RIC, which stood for Russia, India and China. Then later, Brazil joined and finally South Africa in February 2011, which is why now it is referred to as BRICS.
The acronym BRICS is derived from the member countries’ names in English. The organization seeks to develop comprehensive cooperation among members in the economy, finance, education, science, culture and other areas. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world’s geographic area and are home to 2.88 billion people, about 42% of the world’s population.