Chinese President Xi Jinpingis the focus of the 15th BRICS summit taking place in Johannesburg from this Tuesday to Thursday, a meeting full of diplomatic intrigues and economic ambitions. His visit promises to be a dynamic interplay of geopolitical movements as it will be immediately followed by a major visit State trip to South Africa, which will further solidify Beijing’s strategic ties on the African continent. Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine, economic turmoil in South Africa and rising rivalry between Asian giants China and India make this meeting particularly urgent.
The proxy war in Ukraine, supported by the USA and NATO, was a particular reason the rapprochement of the BRICS as an economic and political bloc. These countries are making great strides to become a powerful power. But the bloc, united in its resentment of US financial hegemony, also represents a common sentiment among people in the Global South: their resentment of Western dominance and arrogance.
So Xi landed with the aim of strengthening Beijing’s influence in developing and emerging countries. This is a significant strategic effort amid fierce competition between Washington and Beijing for technological and economic supremacy.
The Chinese President visited South Africa in 2018 with the aim of improving bilateral diplomatic and economic relations. This time it is his second international trip this year, a very different trajectory from his pre-pandemic days of pervasive global diplomacy. In fact, his only foreign visit in 2023 was in March, when he met his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin in Moscow. A meeting that highlighted their shared strategic position on Washington as well as their shared vision a new world order to break with western dominance. And now, as the “friends” struggle against geopolitical isolation from the Western powers, it is becoming clear that they are turning to promoting economic ties in developing countries.
For Xi, this conference is an excellent opportunity to discuss how to grow from a club of nations representing a quarter of the world economy a geopolitical force capable of challenging the dominance of the developed world.
The member countries of this bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – together represent more than 40% of the world’s population and, beyond their demographics, share a common aspiration for a multipolar world and a fuller role in shaping world affairs.
A total of 69 countries were invited to the South African Summit, including all African countries, and expansionism is likely to be high on the agenda. States that have expressed an interest, formally or informally, in joining the group include: Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Ethiopia. However, the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, will take place via video rather than in person.
The block has come a long way since the turn of the century. As Bank of America highlights in a report published Aug. 11, the combined gross domestic product of the Brics countries as a percentage of world output in 2021 surpassed that of the group of seven advanced economies, measured by purchasing power parity. By 2028, these countries are expected to account for 33.6% of world production, compared to 27% for the G7.
In addition, the bloc is united in its resentment of US financial hegemony, a resentment that has intensified following Washington’s moves to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. In fact, one of the main talking points of the meeting will take center stage about the enormous influence of the US dollar in the global financial economy and their desire to dethrone him. However, China itself has shown little interest in adopting the US dollar as the world currency of choice, which would require full yuan convertibility and an open capital account. And it is that Beijing is currently struggling enough to restore confidence in its fragile economy and markets to worry about the risks of liberalizing its financial markets.
Tensions between China and India
On the other hand, the escalation of the conflict between the US and China has highlighted the different strategic priorities of the bloc members. Not only does this make it more difficult for Brazil and other members of the Mercosur group of South American countries to secure a trade deal with the European Union, it also makes it difficult it is exacerbating tensions between China and India at a time when India is increasing defense cooperation with the United States.
During his stay in South Africa, Xi will work with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa to jointly lead the China-Africa leadership dialogue and forge links and dialogues that could reshape the geostrategic landscape. Xi himself defined Sino-Africa relations asor “An alliance forged with the right approach defies distance, stronger than glue and more robust than metal and rock”. In fact, it has been the Asian giant’s largest trading partner in the region for 13 consecutive years and is one of the main recipients of Chinese investment.
According to the RAND Group, China has four basic strategic interests in Africa. First of all, it strives for it have access to natural resources, especially oil and gas. To ensure future supply, China is investing heavily in the oil sectors of countries like Sudan, Angola and Nigeria. Those investments could ease its efforts to restructure its own economy away from labor-intensive industries, especially given the Asian giant’s rising labor costs. In third place is China claims political legitimacy. Most African governments profess support for the “One China” policy, a prerequisite for attracting aid and investment from that country. Finally, Beijing has been looking play a more constructive role as a contribution to the stability of the region, in part to mitigate security-related threats to its economic interests.
In Africa, their governments expect the Asian country to give them political recognition and contribute to their economic development through aid, investment, infrastructure development and trade. something african The aim is to emulate China’s rapid economic development and they believe their nations can benefit from their recent experiences in lifting them out of poverty.
However, some Africans are critical of the Chinese involvement. Unions, civil society groups and other parts of African society have criticized Chinese companies for poor working conditions, unsustainable environmental practices and job displacement. In some countries, resentment of Chinese business practices has led to popular protests and violence against Chinese businessmen and expatriates.