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United, they stand

By CHEN ZHAOYUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-11 08:39
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Concerns about challenges to collective action after BRICS expansion are uncalled for

Following its historic expansion earlier this year when Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined BRICS, the impact of the group's cooperation on the Global South and global governance has garnered widespread attention. This year, BRICS countries successively held their first coordinators' meeting and the first meeting of their finance ministers and central bank governors.

The first meeting of BRICS leaders after the expansion is scheduled to be held in Kazan, Russia, in October. Some observers fear that the addition of new members will exacerbate the "collective action problem" of the BRICS countries, weakening its effectiveness in providing public goods to the international community, especially the Global South. As the creator of the term "BRICS", Jim O'Neill pointed out that "the group's influence will depend on its effectiveness, not on its composition or size". However, what is at least equally important is that the grouping needs to value the new momentum that its expansion has brought to collective action. In fact, the expanded BRICS mechanism will better provide public goods, promoting unity, cooperation and common development among the Global South through enhanced stability, expanded possibility and elevated mobility.

First, the grouping can enhance stability through strategic collaboration and policy coordination. After its expansion, the representativeness and influence of BRICS have increased further, injecting more constructive force into maintaining world peace and promoting global development. Currently, the GDP of the 10 BRICS countries accounts for about 36 percent of the global economy, with their population accounting for about 45 percent of the global total, and crude oil production taking up 44 percent of the global total.

Last November, BRICS leaders issued a joint statement on the situation in Palestine and Israel, setting a good precedent for greater BRICS cooperation after the expansion. It also indicates that BRICS countries will continue to strengthen their coordination on major international and regional issues, uphold global fairness and justice, maintain global strategic stability, and serve as an important force in building a multipolar world and advancing the democratization of international relations.

By strengthening macroeconomic policy coordination, the addition of new members can bring greater economic stability to BRICS countries and even the broader international community. BRICS countries have prioritized the development needs of the Global South. In responding to international financial crises and geopolitical tensions, BRICS countries can maintain the positive momentum of global economic recovery and growth through coordinated actions in their domestic fiscal and monetary policies, showcasing their active role and collective leadership in global economic governance, providing a more predictable environment for the long-term planning and investment of emerging markets and developing countries.

Second, the grouping can explore greater possibilities through topic expansion and innovative solutions. The addition of new members to the BRICS ushers in new resources and demands for cooperation, which can be instrumental in enriching and deepening cooperation within the grouping. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran have proposed the need for cooperation in the fields of energy security and energy transition. Egypt and Ethiopia have huge potential but both face challenges in infrastructure construction, agricultural development, and educational investment.

Meanwhile, the addition of new members results in a more diversified economic structure and industrial strengths, which helps to deepen BRICS' financial cooperation. Saudi Arabia's oil resources and its economic diversification strategy, as well as the UAE's experience in financial center construction, technological innovation, and sustainable development, provide new perspectives and pragmatic cases for BRICS financial cooperation. Efforts made by countries such as Egypt and Ethiopia in enhancing regional connectivity, industrial upgrading and human resource development blaze new paths for BRICS' financial cooperation.

After its expansion, BRICS will more effectively shape the multilateral agenda, contributing more BRICS solutions to global governance. Last October, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Beijing and stated that the international financial system can no longer reflect the political and economic realities of the world today and is in urgent need of reform. Among the new BRICS members, Saudi Arabia is a G20 member, and the UAE and Egypt were guest countries at the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September. This enhances the voice of BRICS countries in global economic governance. The expanded BRICS can more forcefully advance international agendas that are favorable to emerging markets and developing countries, proposing and implementing initiatives and projects with broad influence in areas such as climate change, digital economic governance, and infrastructure development through collective actions.

Third, the grouping can elevate mobility through joint efforts in self-strengthening and promoting openness and inclusiveness. BRICS countries, upholding the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, and win-win cooperation, have created a hallmark of South-South cooperation. This expansion also reflects the openness and inclusiveness of BRICS, incorporating new member countries with different systems, injecting new vitality into BRICS cooperation. The wide range of countries applying for BRICS membership reflects the confidence of many developing countries in BRICS cooperation and demonstrates the effectiveness of the BRICS mechanism in common development. Over 40 countries have now expressed their desire to join the BRICS, with more than 20 countries submitting formal applications. This indicates that BRICS countries have won the trust of countries in the Global South. In recent years, some developed countries have continuously strengthened small circles centered on the G7, and some countries have politicized and marginalized development issues, leading to more pronounced development divides and technological gaps. The expansion of BRICS shows the strong desire and resolve of emerging markets and developing countries to unite, cooperate, and seek development together, helping to narrow the North-South gap and promote more balanced and sustainable global development.

Emerging markets and developing countries increasingly recognize that BRICS can serve as an effective vehicle for achieving South-South cooperation and building a new international political and economic order. This has spurred their enthusiasm to participate in the cooperation. BRICS expansion and BRICS Plus cooperation can offer more development opportunities and intellectual support for countries in the Global South, enhancing their competitiveness and upward mobility in the global economy. BRICS expansion will also help build a more just and reasonable international order and global governance system, creating a broader space for the development of the Global South.

Concerns about challenges to collective action after BRICS expansion should not be exaggerated. By leveraging the resources of its member countries, BRICS can build consensus and take collective action around common goals. Through flexible and pragmatic institutional design, BRICS member countries can expand and deepen cooperation in multiple areas, reducing the risk of cooperation falling into a deadlock. With increased representativeness and influence, BRICS countries will more actively shape the global governance agenda, providing more public goods to the Global South and the international community.

The author is an assistant researcher with the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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