Accelerating the Building of High-quality Partnership and Giving Full Play to the BRICS Mechanism

Chen Wenling

At the 14th BRICS Summit in June 2022, President Xi Jinping stated that “the giant ship of BRICS has sailed forward tenaciously against raging torrents and storms. Riding the wind and cleaving the waves, it has embarked on a righteous course of mutual support and win-win cooperation”. In August this year, the 15th BRICS Summit will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, 17 years after BRICS leaders met for the first time in Yekaterinburg, Russia in 2009. In the past 17 years, BRICS has evolved from an economic concept into a new platform for international cooperation. With its influence going beyond the five countries, BRICS has become a constructive force for boosting world economic growth, improving global governance and promoting democracy in international relations. In the spirit of mutual respect and understanding, equality, solidarity, openness, inclusiveness and consensus, BRICS countries have made a series of major achievements by strengthening mutual trust, deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, and maintaining closer people to people exchanges.
As a premier platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries, BRICS should and can continue to play a unique role and create greater value in a turbulent world of unprecedented, accelerated changes unseen in a century and at a critical moment when the future of mankind and the world is being shaped.  

First, BRICS should play a unique role in safeguarding world peace, security, and international fairness and justice.
Last century witnessed two world wars and a cold war of confrontation between two blocs. History seems to be repeating itself. The Ukraine crisis has once again sounded the alarm for the world: the world can only pursue peaceful development, and war will only bring suffering, disasters and difficulties. Hegemony, group politics and bloc-based confrontation will not bring peace and security, but will lead to wars and conflicts instead. Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Security Initiative (GSI), calling on the international community to adapt to the profoundly changing international landscape in the spirit of solidarity and address complex and intertwined security challenges with a win-win mindset. The GSI calls for staying committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security; respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously; peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation; and maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains. The purpose of the GSI is to eliminate the root causes of international conflicts, improve global security governance, encourage joint international efforts to bring more stability and certainty to the volatile and changing times, and achieve lasting peace and development in the world.
BRICS countries should show a common position on opposing hegemony, abandoning zero-sum game and rejecting power politics. BRICS countries should show the world that the historical trend of peace, development, and win-win cooperation is unstoppable, and that maintaining international peace and security and promoting global development and prosperity should become the common pursuit of all countries. BRICS countries should promote the establishment of a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and foster a sense of community where they share weal and woe. Each country in the world should have a peaceful and stable social environment, and take into account the legitimate concerns of others when pursuing its own interests. People of every country can live and work in peace and contentment, maintain peace and security, promote sustainable development, and advance and protect democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. All countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, should be equal members of the international community, and international affairs should be handled by all countries through consultation. Each country should have the right to choose its own social system and development path, respect the diversity of civilizations, and strengthen cooperation based on mutual respect, justice and equality.
Second, BRICS should play a unique role in driving global economic recovery and major development.
BRICS countries have a combined population of 3.36 billion, accounting for 42% of the world’s total. They have a total area of 43.83 million square kilometers, accounting for 33% of the land area of 197 countries in the world. In 2021, BRICS countries contributed over 50% to global economic growth, accounting for 40% of global foreign exchange reserves, 25% of global GDP and 16% of world trade. BRICS countries should therefore have a greater say in international affairs, but in fact, their voting shares in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are less than 15%, and their per capita GDP is still less than that of G7 countries.
 COVID-19 that ravaged the world from 2020 to 2022 and the suppression of China by some countries have dealt a heavy blow to the world economy and industrial and supply chains. The common challenge faced by all countries is how to speed up economic recovery and stabilize industrial and supply chains. In 2023 and beyond, BRICS countries will be an important driving force for world economic recovery and development. In 2022, China’s GDP reached RMB 121 trillion, a new height after breaking through RMB 100 trillion and RMB 110 trillion in 2020 and 2021 successively. In 2022, India’s GDP amounted to US$3.39 trillion, and its economic growth rate was 6.7%, surpassing Britain to become the fifth largest economy in the world and now becoming the most populous country. Brazil’s GDP reached 9.9 trillion Reais (about US$1.9 trillion) in 2022, an increase of 2.9% over the previous year. In 2022, Russia’s GDP recorded US$2.22 trillion, overtaking South Korea, Italy and Canada to become the eighth largest economy. According to the data of statistical departments of BRICS countries in 2022, the nominal GDP of BRICS countries totaled US$25910.414 billion, an increase of US$1117.428 billion over the previous year’s US$24792.986 billion, a nominal increase of 4.5% year-on-year. The top 10 countries ranked by GDP are the US, China, Japan, Germany, India, Britain, France, Russia, Canada and Italy. China is in a stable position, India is catching up with Germany after surpassing Britain, and Russia makes it to the top ten.
Under new circumstances when new challenges and risks are on a steep rise, BRICS countries, as representatives of developing countries, should play a greater role in addressing global development problems. At present, the global development process has been severely impacted, the North-South gap further widened, and the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been set back. The 1.2 billion people in nearly 70 countries around the world are facing epidemic, food, energy and debt crises, and the gains in global poverty reduction in the past few decades may be lost. Development is the key for BRICS countries to address challenges and deliver a better life to the people. They must lead cooperation with development, promote security with development, increase international discourse power with development, and transform BRICS countries from participants to leaders in global development, from riders to defenders and builders of international order, and from demanders to suppliers of global public goods. Promoting the recovery of the world economy is the basis for promoting global common development. BRICS countries should further deepen multilateral and bilateral cooperation, strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, keep to the right direction of economic globalization, safeguard the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization as the core, promote the development of an open world economy, advance the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, and oppose protectionism, “decoupling” and unilateral sanctions, so as to contribute to accelerating global economic recovery and building a solid foundation for development.
Third, BRICS should play a unique role in deepening cooperation in various fields and building a BRICS community with a shared future.
Deepening BRICS economic and trade cooperation. In 2022, the 12th BRICS Trade Ministers’ Meeting endorsed such deliverables as the BRICS Statement on Strengthening the Multilateral Trading System and Reforming the WTO, the BRICS Digital Economy Partnership Framework, the BRICS Initiative on Trade and Investment for Sustainable Development and the BRICS Initiative on Enhancing Cooperation on Supply Chains, which constitute important policy basis for deepening BRICS economic and trade cooperation. According to customs statistics, China’s import and export was RMB 42067.82 billion in 2022, an increase of 7.7% compared with the same period of last year. The surplus of trade in goods expanded to RMB 5862.98 billion, up 29.7% in dollar terms, reaching a record high. Economic and trade cooperation among other BRICS countries has also shown strong resilience. In 2020, China replaced the US to become India’s largest trading partner again. In the first half of 2021, India became the fastest growing country among China’s trading partners, and China-India trade increased by more than 50.5%. In 2022, the bilateral trade between China and other BRICS countries exceeded US$550 billion, up 12.9% year-on-year. China has maintained its position as the largest trading partner of Russia, Brazil and South Africa for a long time, which has injected development momentum into the economies of relevant countries. BRICS countries must uphold WTO rules and standards, promote the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment, and improve the international environment for investment and trade.
Deepening BRICS financial cooperation. BRICS countries have established the New Development Bank (NDB) to support infrastructure and sustainable development in emerging markets and developing countries, including BRICS countries. On this basis, efforts must be made in four respects: First, to raise the level of opening up. In 2021, the NDB accepted Bangladesh, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates and Egypt as new members. The NDB may open its membership to all UN member states and develop into a global multilateral development bank. In addition to the Shanghai headquarters, the establishment of the NDB Africa Center, America Center, Eurasia Center and South Asia Center will help strengthen investment and financing business in the respective regions. Second, to improve the quality of investment. Since its establishment in 2015, the NDB has approved about US$32 billion loans to support more than 90 infrastructure and sustainable development projects in relevant countries and regions. If the NDB meets its designed goals from the perspectives of investment scale, investment benefits and climate efforts, it will play a positive role in promoting the reform and improvement of the global economic and financial governance system. Third, to improve the credit level. The NDB has been well recognized by Standard & Poor’s and other rating agencies, with a credit rating of AA+. It should be encouraged to provide support for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging economies and developing countries through loans, guarantees, equity investments and other financial instruments, and promote global development. Fourth, to establish a BRICS settlement system. The BRICS funding pool should be expanded, currency swaps and local currency settlement increased, and the emergency fund system enhanced.
Promoting BRICS digital economy cooperation. Emerging sectors such as digital economy have become important engines of global economic development, providing important opportunities for emerging markets and developing countries, including BRICS members, to achieve leapfrog development. In 2022, the BRICS Summit endorsed the BRICS Digital Economy Partnership Framework, which is an important consensus on deepening BRICS digital economy cooperation and starts a new process of BRICS digital economy cooperation. BRICS countries should strengthen cooperation in the fields of digital economy, such as cloud computing, big data, e-commerce, platform economy and artificial intelligence, and increase their say and rule-making power. According to the calculation of relevant institutions, the number of online shoppers in BRICS countries will rise to 1.35 billion in 2022, accounting for 61% of the world’s total; the total cross-border online retail sales will increase to US$553.6 billion, accounting for 41% of the global total. BRICS countries should accelerate the digital, internet-based and intelligent transformation of traditional industries, promote the prosperity and development of the digital economy, and create an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory digital development environment. BRICS countries should enhance cooperation in digital infrastructure, continuously expand digital infrastructure investment, and promote 5G network construction, application, technology development and security guarantee. More support should be given to the big data and IOT industries, and promote the development of artificial intelligence. BRICS countries should promote cooperation in digital public security prevention and control, standardized management of digital government affairs, intelligent upgrading of urban facilities, and digital market competition.
Promoting the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR). A new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation is creating new impetus for economic growth and has become an important driving force for the unprecedented changes in the past century, bringing momentous changes to global development and the way of production and life. At the 12th BRICS Summit in 2020, President Xi Jinping stressed the need to speed up the building of a BRICS partnership on new industrial revolution. This initiative is in line with the strategies, plans and policies of BRICS countries in the field of new industrial revolution, and fully integrates into the practical needs and comparative advantages of BRICS countries in new industrialization, thus providing broad space for BRICS countries to foster their development momentum and deepen cooperation. As some countries are taking anti-globalization measures to dismantle and weaken the global industrial pattern, it is necessary to deepen BRICS innovation cooperation on new industrial revolution. This will promote robust, healthy and resilient sustainable development, strengthen all-round BRICS industrial cooperation, promote digital transformation of industries, enhance cooperation in industrial and supply chains, and bolster industrial development capabilities. BRICS countries should be encouraged to make use of initiatives such as BRICS PartNIR Innovation Center (BPIC), BRICS Centre for Industrial Competences and BRICS Start-up Events to further deepen cooperation. The BRICS Forum on Development of Industrial Internet and Digital Manufacturing and the BRICS Industrial Innovation Contest have been held to bolster the partnership on new industrial revolution .
Promoting BRICS energy cooperation. Energy cooperation is not only the bridge and basis among the five largest emerging economies of the world, but also BRICS cooperation potential and interests. China, India, Russia and South Africa are the world’s top coal producers. Russia, China and Brazil are among the top ten crude oil producers. China, India and Russia rank among the top five in the world in power generation. The five countries account for 43% of the global renewable energy power generation. According to the International Energy Agency, the world total oil demand will reach a record 101.9 million barrels per day in 2023. China’s crude oil import will reach an average of 11.8 million barrels per day, ranking first in the world, and India’s oil imports 4.74 million barrels per day. According to the latest data from the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, from April 2022 to January 2023, Russia was India’s fourth largest source of import, and its total import were US$37.31 billion, a year-on-year increase of 384%. Russia is the second largest crude oil producer in the world. According to Statistical Review of World Energy 2021 (hereinafter referred to as BP Statistical Review), Russia has proven oil reserves of 107.8 billion barrels, accounting for about 6.2% of the world’s total, ranking sixth in the world. In 2021, the output of Russian crude oil and condensate oil was 10.52 million barrels per day, ranking second in the world. Russia is the second largest natural gas producer in the world. According to BP Statistical Review, Russia’s proven natural gas reserves in 2020 are 37.4 trillion cubic meters, accounting for 28% of the world’s proven reserves, ranking first among the world’s major energy producers. The world is making clean and low carbon transition at a faster pace. Facing the dual pressure of fast rising energy demand and green and low carbon transformation, BRICS countries have established a mechanism to deepen energy cooperation, which has become an important part of the BRICS strategic and economic dialogue. By making their voices heard in the world, strengthening project cooperation, promoting standards and rules making, boosting technology introduction and enhancing personnel training, BRICS will achieve win-win results in energy cooperation.
Promoting BRICS cooperation in green transformation. Green transformation provides new opportunities for global sustainable development and a new source of economic growth. It is also a key area where BRICS members and developing countries hope to accelerate development. As representatives of emerging markets and developing countries, BRICS countries are not only an important engine of world economic growth, but also the backbone of global sustainable development. BRICS countries should put forward pragmatic cooperation measures in trade and investment to boost green development, encourage green and low-carbon technologies and green ways of production and consumption, promote the transfer of clean technologies, and facilitate the transition to sustainable consumption and production patterns. BRICS enterprises should expand investment in green development and improve their competitiveness in the global market. BRCIS countries should start with win-win cooperation among themselves, follow the global energy trends, and focus on issues of common concern. They should pursue green, efficient, safe and sustainable energy transition to support high quality economic and social development. BRICS countries should build consensus, reject green barriers, speak in one voice, in order to defend their common rights and interests. They should make it clear to the international community that all measures taken to deal with climate change must fully comply with WTO agreements, and shall never impede international trade or create unnecessary obstacles to international trade.
Fourth, BRICS mechanism should play a unique role in building high-quality development partnership.
BRICS countries should further expand their circle of friends and improve their capacity to safeguard the rights and interests on behalf of developing countries and small and medium-sized countries. China put forward the concept of “BRICS plus” cooperation. In 2022, leaders of Egypt, Guinea, Mexico, Tajikistan and Thailand were invited to participate in the dialogue between emerging market countries and developing countries. The “BRICS plus” cooperation model was further expanded. BRICS may grow from the current five countries to 12 countries. Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Argentina, Algeria and other countries all indicated their willingness to join BRICS, which will increase the economic strength of BRICS and promote BRICS to become a positive force in transforming the global landscape. The role of BRICS as a platform for inclusive cooperation must be brought into full play. And they should take an active part in the global industrial chain, advance the BRICS mechanism, and contribute to the new global governance order.
The 2022 BRICS Summit laid out the procedures and processes for accepting new members. This year’s BRICS Johannesburg Summit will take substantial steps in the expansion of BRICS. With more new members, the BRICS mechanism will increase its economic aggregate and take a bigger share in the world economy. They will become a major pillar of the world economy, an important part of the new world governance order, and play a bigger role in safeguarding world peace and building a community with a shared future for mankind. BRICS countries should connect each other closely through building constructive development partnership and move towards the goal of integrated markets, multi-tiered circulation, greater connectivity on land, at sea and in the air, and thriving cultural exchange.  

Chen Wenling is Chief Economist of China Center for International Economic Exchanges.