BRICS Summit in South Africa: A political grouping built on illusions?

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1) Tom Hancock, “How BRICS Became a Club That Others Want to Join,”
(Analysis by Tom Hancock | Bloomberg), Washington Post, August 17, 2023 (9:51 a.m. EDT):


In an insightful article covering tbe history and development of the BRICS grouping, which is holding its fifth summit in Johannesburg, South Africa this week, Tom Hancock of Bloomberg traces the origin and history of the BRICS concept, from tge coinage at a New York investment firm in 2001 of the term BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) as a group of major economies with significant growth potential, the addition of South Africa in 2010, to a grouping whose members share vast ambitions but whose interests are sharply divergent.

The world has changed in the last 20 years. Russia is no longer a bright investment opportunity as it was in 2001 but rather a pariah state under sanctions which is seeking to bring down the U.N. Charter-based international legal order by military force, in a war of aggression against Ukraine characterized by war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide.

China has changed, too, since Xi Jinping took over in 2012. It is no longer the market-driven economic powerhouse unleashed by market reforms during the the Deng Xiaoping era, but rather a harsh dictatorship tending strongly toward totalitarianism.

After joining the World Trade Organization in 2001 and becoming a major stakeholder in the current international system based on international law and the U.N. Charter, under Xi Jinping it changed course. China now lays claim to the South China Sea, and is considering the invasion of Taiwan.

Its claims to the South China Sea have been found to have no basis in international law in an authoritative arbitral decision in 2016 by a tribunal acting pursuant to provisions of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, to which China is a party. Under international law, China is bound by the arbitral decision. Nonetheless, China is ignoring it, while massively building up its military forces.

India, still the largest democracy in the world, under Narendra Modi has been moving toward a kind of religious-based authoritarianism.

Brazil has just survived a right-wing threat during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, for whom arrest warrants are currently outstanding. Luiz Inácio (“Lula”) da Silva has returned for a third term as president, and seems to be stabilizing tbe country–at least politically.

South Africa, the latecomer to the group, now faces an extremely serious economic situation under President Cyril Ramaphosa of the African National Congress Party. Ramaphosa recently emerged from a corruption cloud and an attempted impeachment.

Vladimir Putin couldn’t make the summit because of an outstanding arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court which South Africa would have been legally obligated to enforce had Putin attended the meeting.

Many countries are clamoring to join the BRICS group, motivated in part by hooes for loans on advantageous terms from its development bank, the New Development Bank, based in Shanghai.

Whether the group will evolve into a significant organization that is a counterweight to existing multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund remains to be seen. Access to loans from the New Development Bank is a major benefit of membership. The group facilitates trade and other cooperation among its members,

With expanded membership it is also possible that it will develop into one more talking shop, which major powers seek to use to promote their own particular goals, as Russia is trying to do today.

The Trenchant Observer


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