China, Russia gather BRICS to shatter US-centered global order

Posted on : 2022-06-24 16:57 KST Modified on : 2022-06-24 16:57 KST
Amid continuing pressure from the US and elsewhere in the form of sanctions and more, Russia and China are rallying support among emerging and developing economies
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a virtual address at the BRICS Business Forum, held in Beijing China, on June 22. (Xinhua/The Hankyoreh)
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a virtual address at the BRICS Business Forum, held in Beijing China, on June 22. (Xinhua/The Hankyoreh)

As the US continues its pressure campaign on China and Russia by bolstering NATO and the Quad, Moscow and Beijing made clear they mean to counter the US by building an independent power base through a summit of BRICS, an alignment of the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It remains to be seen whether the summit will produce meaningful agreements on expanding membership and other matters.

The leaders of the five BRICS countries held a video conference on Thursday afternoon in which they traded opinions about major issues such as adding new members, expanding trade within the group, and establishing an independent system of payments that could replace SWIFT, the international network of financial payments. The meeting on Thursday was led by China, the BRICS chair, and Russia, which is facing a wide range of economic sanctions from the West following its invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, China and Russia have been stepping up efforts to topple the US-centered unipolar order and build a multipolar order in which they would play major roles. Members of the BRICS group, who have long shared a tradition of neutrality, have not joined economic sanctions against Russia even after its invasion of Ukraine. In fact, China and India have increased imports of petroleum and other forms of energy from Russia, undermining the sanctions regime.

Of particular interest in this summit is the possibility of expanding BRICS membership, an idea proposed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting between the group’s foreign ministers in May. Wang had invited the foreign ministers of nine non-member countries, including Argentina, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, to attend the meeting. Other potential candidates for expanded membership are Bangladesh, Egypt and the UAE, all members of the New Development Bank created by BRICS last year.

The invited countries took part in a video conference on Friday, but it’s unclear whether a significant decision will be reached. India, which is also a member of the Quad, is noncommittal about the proposed membership expansion.

China and Russia’s intention of turning BRICS into an anti-US axis was fully evident during the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum on Wednesday.

“Blind faith in the so-called ‘position of strength’ and attempts to expand military alliances and seek one’s own security at the expense of others will only land oneself in a security dilemma,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping during the event.

While Xi didn’t call out any country by name, his remarks were directly aimed at the US, which has been ramping up military pressure on China through NATO, the Quad, and AUKUS.

Xi also remarked that the US’ sanctions on Russia have not had their desired effect. “It has been proved time and again that sanctions are a boomerang and a double-edged sword. To politicize the global economy and turn it into one’s tool or weapon, and willfully impose sanctions by using one’s primary position in the international financial and monetary systems will only end up hurting one’s own interests as well as those of others, and inflict suffering on everyone,” the Chinese president said.

Xi also commented on the potential expansion of BRICS, a topic of keen interest, saying that the BRICS mechanism “is an important cooperation platform for emerging markets and developing countries.”

“Together with BRICS partners, we are developing reliable alternative mechanisms for international settlements,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, referring to Russia’s financial messaging system.

“The Russian Mir payment system is expanding its presence. We are exploring the possibility of creating an international reserve currency based on the basket of BRICS currencies,” he said.

Mir, an electronic payment system based on the Russian ruble, was created in 2015, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014.

“In the first three months of this year, trade between the Russian Federation and the BRICS countries increased by 38 percent [compared to the same period last year] and reached US$45 billion,” Putin said, stressing the need for continued expansion of trade.

BRICS originated as BRIC, an acronym based on the first letters of Brazil, Russia, India and China that was coined by global investment bank Goldman Sachs in 2001. The group held its first summit in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in 2009, and South Africa officially became the fifth member in 2011, turning BRIC into BRICS.

By Jung E-gil, senior staff writer

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