China Wants to Expand BRICS

China has led a debate in the group of nations known as BRICS for expansion.  BRICS is comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and represents 40 percent of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s economy. For China, this would be a Chinese led counterweight to the Western G-7.

But the challenge for the club is that it is as divergent as it is large, and hindered by sometimes conflicting interests and internal rivalries. It comprises the world’s largest authoritarian state (China) and its largest democracy (India), economies big and small, and relations with the United States that run the gamut, from friend to foe.

China, under Xi Jinping, wants to expand BRICS, seeing in it a platform to challenge American power. Russia is keen to demonstrate that Moscow has loyal allies despite its isolation from the West over the war in Ukraine. India, locked in a territorial dispute with China, is wary of Beijing’s dominance in the club.

Brazil and South Africa, the other swing states of the developing world, want good relations with China and Russia, but not to be overly aligned with either, for fear of alienating the United States.

As leaders of the five nations meet starting Tuesday at an annual summit, this time in Johannesburg, how they navigate those differences might determine whether the group becomes a geopolitical coalition or remains largely focused on financial issues such as reducing the dominance of the dollar in the global economy.

The task of finding common ground is only getting harder as the great power competition between Beijing and Washington intensifies, placing pressure on other nations to choose sides. And as Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds on, the conflict is roiling food and energy prices for many of the poorer countries that BRICS members claim to represent.

“China under Xi is looking to use BRICS for its own purposes, particularly in extending its influence in the Global South,” said Steve Tsang, the director of the SOAS China Institute in London. “India is highly unlikely to go along with it as the Chinese proposal will turn BRICS into something else — one which will serve primarily Chinese interests.”

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