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9th BRICS Summit: Managing multipolarity of multipolarity

, September 14, 2017, 0 Comments

brics-summit-marketexpress-inThe five BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) represent no less than 4 billion people or 42% of the world’s population, and even more regarding their contribution to the global economy since their growth will be close to 5% again this year.

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What should we think of their 9th summit held in Xiamen early September this year? And would it be an “unsustainable club, threatened by internal economic and political rivalries” as many Western observers predicted from its creation in 2009 and as the India-China tensions of the last summer may have suggested?

Just read the final declaration in 71 points and its 40 appendices, as well as the press coverage throughout the developing world, to be convinced of the contrary, and I can only recommend the exercise. Even if a close observation of the preparation of the summit, its progress and the actual achievements of the Club in recent years leads to different conclusions of the official image that the five Big Power in competition with the Western world would like to give.

The results of this 9th Summit can be classified under four main headings: good news for them and the world, and bad news for them and the rest of the world.

Economic architecture advances

On the good news for the BRICS, their cooperation is progressing quickly and rather well, between them but also with the developing world and especially Africa, presented once again as their strategic partner. Their pragmatism also allowed them to circumvent numerous friction points that threatened the unity of the group, as between China and India at the brink of confrontation last summer on their Himalayan borders, or between Russia and India about Pakistan.

The architecture of economic cooperation – and far beyond it – is in any case rather impressive. The new development bank (NDB) is gradually establishing itself with its headquarters in Shanghai and its Indian president and has already financed a dozen projects purely intra-BRICS, even if it is small compared to the Asian bank launched at the initiative of China alone (AIIB). Financial and monetary cooperation is also intensifying with swap agreements in the event of a financial crisis and the use of national currencies to get rid of the US dollar.

It should be noted above all a set of technical cooperations with working groups in the framework of trade, protection of investments, or cooperation in fields as varied as space, meteorology and so on.

An exciting vision of the great challenges of the planet

As for good news for the rest of the world, five domains still appear as privileged. Global growth sustainability and its
economic, social and environmental aspects have as also to be seen. With increasingly firm commitments for a post-carbon world and renewable energies. De facto, China and India, in particular, have become pioneers in new environmental technologies. Due to its necessity of course, but so much the better.

Still, on the economic front, the focus on stability and international macro economic coordination can be welcomed as it has probably played a significant role in easing the crisis associated with the fall in commodity prices, including in Africa. There is also a strong emphasis on increasing control over cross-border financial flows and the fight against dirty money. In the same vein, the struggle against corruption is still prominent in the declarations of Xiamen.

We can also note the emphasis placed on the protection of plurality in access to the WEB in particular against the famous American GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook etc.) but also the practices of general espionage by the NSA denounced in particular by Julian Assange (WikiLeaks).

Finally, in the geopolitical field, the BRICS reaffirmed their commitment to the UN as a single multilateral framework for global governance and made proposals for further reforms. In particular, the expansion of the UN Permanent Security Council to three of its members: India, South Africa and Brazil, one of the key elements in the establishment of the Club. But also the IMF and the World Bank reform blocked by the US Congress (and Europeans in part) for five years, including the new distribution of quotas that would end their veto power.

A multipolar club itself

On the negative side of the BRICS, there is silence on certain topics which express both the refusal of Chinese hegemony in the struggle against Western hegemony led by the United States, but also the clear cleavage between two visions of a new global governance and the place of democratic values. The preparation of the Xiamen summit has made it possible for China and India to find a solution to their last summer tensions on the border with Bhutan, but it is only temporary.

And the deaf confrontation between the two Asian giants took the form of a double “oblivion” in the final resolution: that of the International Solar Agency (ISA) launched jointly by India and France at the COP21 summit. It struggled to bring together the quota of member countries targeted by its promoters and in exchange the oblivion of China’s flagship and pharaonic project of the “new silk roads ” (OBOR).

India refused to join the OBOR club the last June because of the implications on its borders in South Asia or the Indian Ocean. But the other BRICS members of are also wary of it because of the hegemonic weight of China and its companies in the major infrastructure programs identified.

In short, the BRICS are now subjected to the fundamental imbalance between a new superpower – China – and rather regional powers that do not want to be the servants of an anti-American bloc. What is finally, good news for the rest of the world: the BRICS themselves are finally multipolar.

Big is never Beautiful

But bad news for the rest of the world, on the other hand, the “anti-western” block seems more like a Big Brother alternative. Democracy within the BRICS? Yes for the right of countries to be treated equally and without the right to interfere in their internal matters, but not for the political and civil rights within each country increasingly threatened. Security? Yes, but seen as a struggle against “all terrorism” with police and military cooperation that is constantly being reinforced within the BRICS in the same way as Western countries, but without a word about the fundamentals of particular struggles including the right of peoples to self-determination despite being recognised by the UN chart itself. One think of course of the Tibetans, the Uighurs that China pursues as far as Egypt, but also the Indian Kashmiris, the Caucasians in Russia, the Indian tribes of Amazonia in Brazil and so on.

The same goes for the Internet under an increasingly tight state control throughout the BRICS world. The fight against terrorism or American supremacy is in fact used as a pretext for increased censorship of personal freedoms, of course in China and Russia, but also in India Brazil and increasingly in Africa.

In short, the BRICS are now an unavoidable reality of a world emerging from the risk of neoliberal unipolarity after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Fortunately, it is not a new China-America bipolarity even if it is not a balanced multipolar world. The Club has the advantage of opening up debates and alternative solutions on the new global governance and on a globalisation that can be more sustainable and in any case more openness in the macroeconomic policies collaboration that is no longer dominated by the only interest of Western countries. It has the disadvantage of being at least as deaf, if not more so, to the voices of civil societies and the rights of people.