China’s President Xi Jinping Advocates for BRICS Unity and Expansion

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China’s President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of unity among the BRICS nations during a summit in South Africa. He called for the expansion of the bloc to address the global period of turbulence and transformation. The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa are meeting in Johannesburg to discuss the establishment of a framework and criteria for admitting new members.

While all the BRICS members have expressed support for the bloc’s growth, there are divisions regarding the extent and speed of expansion. China, as a heavyweight in the bloc, has been actively pushing for expansion due to its deteriorating relations with the US and heightened global tensions resulting from the Ukraine war. Xi stated that developing countries have shown great enthusiasm in participating in BRICS and many have applied to join. He believes that allowing more countries to join will contribute to global governance becoming more just and equitable.

In addition to discussing expansion, Xi highlighted the agreement among the BRICS countries to launch a study group on artificial intelligence (AI) and further expand cooperation in this field. He acknowledged the major shifts and division in the world and emphasized the need for the BRICS countries to remember their founding purpose of strengthening themselves through unity.

The BRICS countries have diverse economies and different foreign policy goals, making decision-making complex. For example, China’s economy is over 40 times larger than South Africa’s. Russia, isolated by the US and Europe due to its invasion of Ukraine, is also keen to expand BRICS and establish it as a counterweight to the West. President Vladimir Putin, who is wanted for alleged war crimes, sees BRICS membership as a way to demonstrate that he still has friends. Meanwhile, Brazil and India, who have strengthened ties with the West, have shown resistance to expanding the bloc to rival the US and the G7 economies.

India, despite concerns about Chinese dominance and occasional conflicts over the border dispute, fully supports the expansion of BRICS. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated the need for ground rules and criteria for new members.

Over 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, with 22 officially applying for membership. Detailed criteria for joining may be included in a joint declaration to be finalized during the summit. The summit also aims to boost the use of member states’ local currencies in trade and financial transactions to reduce dependence on the US dollar. While there are no discussions of a common BRICS currency, potential new member countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Argentina, are being considered for joining the New Development Bank (NDB), which has been financed by China’s capital market.

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