BRICS in 2017: No longer just an acro­nym

China Daily European Weekly - - Cover Story - The au­thor is pro­fes­sor of Chi­nese Stud­ies and di­rec­tor of the Lau China In­sti­tute at King’s Col­lege, Lon­don; and au­thor of which has re­cently been pub­lished. The views do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect those of China Daily.

It is time for BRICS’ mo­ment of global recog­ni­tion. Now it must demon­strate a col­lec­tive vi­sion for its di­verse mem­ber­ship

BRICS also gave China a fur­ther way of talking to other coun­tries which were very im­por­tant to it, but which it lacked a great deal of mul­ti­lat­eral con­tact with out­side of en­ti­ties like the United Na­tions or the World Bank or the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion dom­i­nated by the US and its al­lies.

BRICS since 2012 has been bur­nished with a bank, now based in Shang­hai. It has, how­ever, con­tin­ued to lack pro­file. That is largely be­cause of the ways in which other mul­ti­lat­eral sto­ries have tended to mus­cle in and dis­tract peo­ple. ASEAN, APEC, the G20, and then China’s own con­tri­bu­tions to this al­pha­bet soup of or­ga­ni­za­tions — the Asia In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank and the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. All of these pushed BRICS into the back­ground, suck­ing pub­lic­ity and at­ten­tion from it.

De­spite this, the group­ing is still an im­por­tant one, if only be­cause it con­sti­tutes al­most half the world’s pop­u­la­tion, and a sig­nif­i­cant part of its land­mass. The BRICS gov­ern­ments are stew­ards of the fates of over 3 bil­lion peo­ple. And their suc­cess in man­ag­ing to lift as many of these to pros­per­ity and suc­cess will pretty much de­ter­mine the eco­nomic fate of mankind.

What is the com­mon chal­lenge that the BRICS lead­er­ship will be fac­ing at their meet­ing this month? In­dia’s growth has been strong — stronger than any other mem­ber. China’s con­tin­ues to be sta­ble but is less dra­matic than it used to be. Rus­sia has the high­est per capita GDP, and may con­sti­tute the most de­vel­oped of the part­ners — but with sanc­tions and its re­liance on re­sources rather than other sec­tors, it is fac­ing sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems. South Africa is fac­ing some po­lit­i­cal tur­bu­lence and un­cer­tainty.

These par­ties come to­gether now against an in­ter­na­tional back­ground that is less than op­ti­mal. The United States and Europe con­tinue to be be­set by un­cer­tainty about their do­mes­tic pol­i­tics. What the world does of­fer, how­ever, de­spite the gloomy news in the me­dia, is rel­a­tively strong growth, low in­fla­tion, and im­proved gen­eral eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors. So BRICS feeds into this.

The pres­sure is on now for BRICS mem­bers to ar­tic­u­late some­thing more of a shared vi­sion which is tan­gi­ble and seen as of­fer­ing a com­mon mis­sion and iden­tity. The op­por­tu­nity is around de­liv­er­ing fair growth, and bet­ter sus­tain­abil­ity in ways oth­ers have so far failed to do. As the US with­draws into a more pro­tec­tion­ist shell, BRICS coun­tries have a space to move into — one which de­fends ac­tion against cli­mate change and the de­fense of the Paris Con­ven­tion, but also de­liv­ers some­thing for wide­spread con­cerns about glob­al­iza­tion lead­ing to in­equal­ity and im­bal­ances. This is in some ways the BRICS part­ner­ship’s mo­ment for greater global recog­ni­tion. The ques­tion that will be par­tially an­swered at this meet­ing is whether the part­ners will de­liver on this, and be­come much more than just a nifty acro­nym. It’s very much in the world’s in­ter­est that they do suc­ceed. What Does China Want?, China’s World:

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