Leaders from the BRICS nations convened in South Africa on Tuesday for the BRICS Summit. This coalition of major emerging economies is striving to amplify its influence as a counterbalance to Western dominance in global affairs. The BRICS acronym represents Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, collectively accounting for a quarter of the global economy. Interest in joining this alliance has surged in anticipation of its three-day summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Stringent security measures are in place throughout the city, where South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to host China’s President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and approximately 50 other world leaders.
Notably absent from this year’s BRICS summit is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who faces an international arrest warrant over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent Russia in his absence.
President Xi, the most influential BRICS member, met with President Ramaphosa before the BRICS summit. This marked Xi’s second international trip of the year.
“Now as friends and BRICS partners, we stand together in our shared objective and quest for a better and more egalitarian world that frees the potential of all the people in the world,” said Ramaphosa in Pretoria at the opening of Xi’s state visit.
“Today, standing at a new historical starting point, inheriting friendship, deepening cooperation, and strengthening coordination are the common aspirations of the two countries, and are also the important tasks entrusted to us by the times,” added President Xi.
While representing 40% of the world’s population, the BRICS nations exhibit varying economic growth rates. Nonetheless, they share a common vision for a global order that better aligns with their interests and growing influence.
More About the BRICS Summit
The 15th BRICS summit is themed “BRICS and Africa” and takes place as Africa becomes a renewed focal point for diplomatic engagement, with the United States, Russia, and China vying for influence. The summit highlights divisions over the Ukraine conflict and the support Russia garners from its fellow BRICS members during a period of global isolation.
South Africa, China, and India have refrained from condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, while Brazil has declined to join Western nations in supplying arms to Ukraine or imposing sanctions on Moscow. Prior to the summit, President Ramaphosa emphasized his country’s commitment to not aligning with any dominant bloc of nations, asserting that South Africa would not be drawn into a contest of global powers.
Near the BRICS summit venue, a group of demonstrators displayed blue and yellow Ukrainian flags, along with placards reading “Go home Lavrov.”
Interest in the BRICS bloc is on the rise. It initially consisted of four nations in 2009 but expanded with the inclusion of South Africa the following year. In the lead-up to this summit, at least 40 countries have expressed interest in joining, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Argentina, according to officials.
South Africa will present a proposal to expand BRICS membership to the leaders, with a decision expected at the close of the summit. However, the question of BRICS expansion is divisive, especially among its two most influential members, China and India. While China is eager to rapidly expand the group to bolster its influence, observers note that India, China’s regional rival, approaches this matter with caution.
The BRICS operates on consensus, and according to some analysts, the China-India rivalry is likely the primary challenge the BRICS will eventually face.