BRICS 2.0: Bigger, but Better?

In a world characterized by the increasing polarization between two giants, China and the U.S., as well as an apparently endless conflict in Eastern Europe, the BRICS, originally composed of Brazil, China, Russia, India, and South Africa, recently embarked on a bold expansion leading to the inclusion of six new members. This transformation of the bloc, the result of a complex negotiation that unfolded over three intense days of summitry in Johannesburg, South Africa, raises fundamental questions about its future and impact in a constantly evolving world.

Is China Victorious?

China, the author of the proposal to increase the number of members, emerges as the major winner in this historic negotiation. Not only did it secure the support of Russia, its long-standing ally, but it also secured the agreement of Brazil, South Africa, and India, further consolidating its influence within the group and on the global stage. However, for some observers, Beijing’s position in this expansion raises questions about the balance of power within the bloc and its influence on future decision-making.

Despite the concessions Brazil had to make under Chinese pressure, the South American country obtained an unprecedented declaration in support of reforming the UN Security Council. Brazil, along with India and South Africa, aspires to secure permanent seats in this crucial UN body.

The joint statement of BRICS leaders advocates for a “more democratic, representative, effective, and efficient” Security Council, with a greater voice for developing countries. This diplomatic victory underscores the importance of collaboration within the group and the collective influence they can exert on the international stage.

Challenges of Reconfiguration

The expansion of BRICS also brings Argentina into the fold, despite the economic challenges facing the South American country. While Argentina may not significantly contribute to the resources of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) due to its financial situation, it symbolizes greater representation of Latin America within the group. Additionally, initiatives such as the creation of a common currency or the use of local currencies in transactions among member-states are being explored, which could further strengthen economic ties in the region.

It is important to note that the virtual participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the BRICS summit highlights the complexity of contemporary international relations. Despite a warrant for his arrest for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court, Putin remains an influential figure in global diplomacy.

The BRICS declaration expressing concern over unilateral measures is a clear reference to the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union, and other Western nations against Russia. This reflects the existing tensions between BRICS and Western powers and underscores the significance of this bloc as a counterbalance in an ever-changing multipolar world.

Expanding to eleven members represents a significant milestone for the bloc, as it now not only includes two of the world’s major providers of food and industrial goods, Brazil and China, but will also encompass the leading oil producer, Saudi Arabia. This expansion process reflects the growing trend towards multipolarity on the world stage and underscores the strong national interests of economies like Argentina in this initiative.

Despite criticisms regarding the inclusion of non-democratic countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it is undeniable that the democratic question has never been a central criterion for membership in this group. Both China and Russia, two key players in the bloc, do not conform to the Western democratic model. However, the inclusion of Iran adds a new dimension to this debate. For some, this reinforces the perception that BRICS could evolve into a bloc of confrontation with the U.S., aligning with Beijing’s global interests.

Expansion and Critical Questions

The expansion of BRICS is an important step in strengthening the bloc and expanding trade flows among countries. This alliance represents a set of emerging powers that, through the convergence of their interests, can play a key role in shaping the new global order. It is crucial to remember that even the UN does not condition membership in the organization on democratic criteria, reinforcing the idea that these groups of nations can collaborate in various areas, regardless of their internal political differences.

The recent expansion to eleven members is a milestone on the international stage, but its impact and effectiveness raise critical questions. In the midst of growing global polarization, it is essential to question the true nature and implications of this expansion.

First and foremost, the central issue is whether this increase is a concrete step towards a more multipolar world or simply an attempt by emerging powers to gain influence in global politics. Although BRICS has addressed economic and political issues in the past, their diversity could now hinder effective decision-making. The inclusion of economies with such diverse realities raises questions about whether this expanded bloc can effectively coordinate on crucial issues.

Another critical aspect is BRICS’ commitment framework to democratic principles and human rights. Despite their desire to promote multipolarity and reduce the influence of traditional superpowers, some members, such as China and Russia, have faced criticism for their track record on these issues and lack of transparency in internal affairs. Can BRICS balance their pursuit of global influence with respect for these principles?

Additionally, it is relevant to ask whether this expansion will have a real impact on reshaping the world order. In a global landscape where the U.S. and China maintain their positions as predominant superpowers, the question arises as to whether this expanded coalition possesses the capacity to exert sufficient influence to reformulate the international system. History has shown that the rhetoric of international alliances often does not translate into significant changes.

Concerning the financing of collaborative ventures within the BRICS, it is imperative that member-nations, with China taking a prominent role, meticulously conceive, develop, and diligently implement innovative financial instruments and mechanisms. This entails a thorough exploration of avenues such as the establishment of sovereign wealth funds, the promotion of public-private partnerships, and the creation of regional development banks tailored explicitly to underpin the initiatives emanating from within the bloc. Additionally, it is of utmost importance to steadfastly focus on the promotion and preservation of economic equity among individual member-states, especially those facing intricate economic vicissitudes, as exemplified by the case of Argentina.

In a broader reflection, the significant expansion of the BRICS group to encompass eleven sovereign entities undeniably raises profound and intricate questions regarding their capacity to exert substantial influence in the realm of global politics, their unwavering adherence to universally accepted principles, and the underlying cohesion in their internal dynamics.

It is of paramount importance that these constituent entities, under China’s preeminent influence, not only attentively acknowledge these salient concerns but also proactively and comprehensively embark on a complex and coordinated effort towards their effective enhancement.

It becomes an unavoidable task that this expanded perspective transcends the realm of symbolic gestures and crystallizes into substantial strides towards the promulgation and realization of a global order imbued with growing equity and evident multipolarity. Pragmatic actions, supported by the adept deployment of innovative fiscal strategies and the exercise of consummate diplomacy, must surpass mere rhetorical discourse, concomitantly facilitating an enlargement and intensification of the relevance of the BRICS conglomerate in the prominent global arena.