BRICS Summit: Shaping a New World Order Beyond Western Dominance

Tensions between BRICS members pose complications. China's rise makes India uneasy, while Russia's invasion of Ukraine has strained its relationships with India, Brazil and South Africa. What's next?

Photo by Leo Moko / Unsplash

News Update: The announced expansion of the five-nation Brics club of emerging economies was described as "historic" by Chinese President Xi Jinping, but it is still not clear how far the countries' common interests stretch.

The growth of Brics "will… further strengthen the force for world peace and development" the president said while addressing the leaders gathered at a conference centre in South Africa's commercial hub, Johannesburg.

The Brics countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - are often seen as a counterweight to the Western-led world.

The six new countries - Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - are set to join in January. - BBC

Our analysis was based on the organisation's member nations before it admitted six new members this week.

The latest BRICS summit garnered substantial global attention, underscoring the influential geopolitical interests of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - five major emerging economies seeking greater power on the world stage.

A dominant theme was shaping the future world order and global governance. Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of historical choices in guiding global development, signalling BRICS intentions to challenge existing hierarchies and advocate for a more equitable system. The summit provided a platform for China and Russia to promote their priorities across the developing world.

Balancing power dynamics was another key discussion point. The BRICS aim to collectively increase their influence to counterbalance traditional Western dominance in institutions like the UN Security Council, IMF and World Bank. While still accounting for over 40% of global GDP, the G7's share of the world economy has declined as BRICS and other emerging markets expand. BRICS see an opportunity to craft a new rules-based order reflecting developing world priorities.

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However, tensions between BRICS members pose complications. China's rise makes India uneasy, while Russia's invasion of Ukraine has strained its relationships with India, Brazil and South Africa. Yet the BRICS countries share an interest in diluting US and European influence in hemispheric and regional affairs. The summit discussions likely tried to find common ground on how to equitably rebalance power.

Expanding BRICS membership to be more representative of the Global South was a related focus. Over 40 nations have expressed interest in joining the bloc, including powerful economies like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Argentina. BRICS leaders discussed reforming membership rules to accelerate expansion. A larger, more diverse BRICS could significantly reshape international institutions and economic networks to the developing world's benefit.

South Africa's challenges hosting the summit highlighted the delicate diplomatic balancing act required. As current BRICS chair, South Africa remains committed to the bloc's focus on growth and reform. However, it also maintains close Western ties. Its refusal to condemn Russia's Ukraine invasion has created domestic tensions and damaged relations with the US and EU. South Africa will need adept diplomacy to reconcile its BRICS ties with its wider geopolitical interests.

Indeed, insulating BRICS unity from competing allegiances and regional disputes remains an ongoing challenge. India's security reliance on the US and its tensions with China over land borders and influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean complicates its BRICS role. Meanwhile, China and Russia aim to collaborate on a new non-dollar denominated payments system, sidelining other members.

Global Governance and Brics

Nonetheless, the five countries share a vision of a post-Western led order and reforming global governance to better represent emerging powers. The summit provided a forum to align their priorities and develop mutually beneficial strategies to balance and elevate their influence. This likely involved candid discussions on key points of divergence, and pragmatic approaches to enhance cohesion.

Overall, the summit offered BRICS leaders an opportunity to sharpen their focus on collectively shaping a new geopolitical landscape. With careful diplomacy and savvy balancing of national interests, the bloc has potential to erode outdated power dynamics. But the path to a more multipolar, equitable world order will require unity and deft geopolitical maneuvering through complex tensions between BRICS countries themselves, and with established Western powers reluctant to cede influence.