BRICS a force despite ifs and buts

Updated: 2013-04-02 14:04

By Chu Zhaogen (China Daily)

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In the final analysis, the BRICS summit is still an economic cooperation platform evolving from the concept of an investment destination of a group of emerging economies. Though BRICS member states comprise the "world's factory" (China), the "world's gas station" (Russia), the "world's office" (India), the "world's raw material base" (Brazil) and "Africa's bridgehead" (South Africa), their geographical distance, different stages of economic development and domestic issues are hurdles in the way of deeper cooperation.

All the five countries are regional powers, but history has left almost all of them to deal with territorial disputes and/or internal problems. For example, Russia is battling with the Chechnya problem and trying to find ways to deal with its pro-US neighbors; China has territorial disputes with Japan, India and some Southeast Asian countries; India has territorial disputes with China and Pakistan; and Brazil is wary of Argentina. These energy-sapping disputes and problems can easily be used by their regional rivals and the US to contain their rise.

Moreover, China shares its borders with Russia and India both, which is matter of constant concern for it. Tensions rose on both sides of the China-India recently, and China has opposed India's nuclear program. Also, Brazil and India have joined hands with the US to call for the yuan's revaluation. These problems are not favorable for BRICS to make a concerted effort to counterbalance the West's supremacy and reform the world order.

More importantly, in the short term BRICS cannot provide all the products that the world needs. As the sole superpower, the US is the founder of numerous international mechanisms and the largest exporter of many important products and services. After World War II, the US initiated and created the United Nations, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (later to become the World Trade Organization), the IMF, the World Bank and other organizations, building a US-dominated international system from the institutional level. The US also provides security and huge amounts of aid to other countries and a stable currency, which the stability of the current international system and promote development.

Besides, BRICS member states owe their rise and cooperation to the existing global order. Therefore, the idea that BRICS can become a strong force to end the US hegemony is unrealistic under the current circumstances. Plus, the cooperation among the five countries is limited to investment and trade. BRICS member states lack a common direction, common interest and a centripetal force that would facilitate total cooperation.

Nevertheless, the cooperation among BRICS member states is representative of the irresistible rise of emerging countries. It also mirrors the rising power of emerging countries and maturing of South-South cooperation, and is a small step toward breaking the dollar trap and democratizing international relations.

As President Xi Jinping said at the Durban BRICS summit, those with a common goal can be with each other despite being far apart. So BRICS member states have to resist foreign interference in their internal affairs, shelve their disputes to work together for common causes and make sustained efforts to become a powerful group that can make the world a better place.

The author is a scholar, specializing in China's public policy and international issues.

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