BRICS at Xiamen: A Reflection


The 2017 BRICS summit in Xiamen continued the economic integration of the bloc, while at the same time also adding a more significant security dimension to it, Francis A. Kornegay, Jr., Senior Research Fellow in the, Institute for Global Dialogue at the University of South Africa , told

As the BRICS quintet approaches a decade as the world’s vanguard of emerging powers, Xiamen may be seen as the culmination of accomplishments over this period. The summit of 2017 marked what could be seen as the bloc’s consolidating transition toward an ever greater institutionalizing of mechanisms for influencing global economic governance, its primary raison d’etre. ‘Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future’ says it all in encompassing the 9th summit’s review of achievements to date and prospects for the future which commences with the closing of its first decade at the summit South Africa will host in 2018. In 2017 and beyond, this is of no small significance as the multilateral trading system and its attendant globalization is under anti-globalist populist challenge in the Euro-American West.

In global economic terms within the BRICS Economic Partnership framework, BRICS fashions itself collectively as being in the forefront of advancing the interests of Emerging Markets and Developing Countries (or EMDCs). This promises to gain momentum with the launching of the New Development Bank (NDB) during this period, with the regional center for Africa having been officially launched in Johannesburg. NDB financing, coupled with the Contingency Reserve Arrangement forms the apex of inter and intra-BRICS economic governance accompanied by other instruments under the Inter-Bank Cooperation Mechanism such as the jointly established Local Currency Bond Markets and Fund “as a means of contribution to the capital sustainability of financing in BRICS countries. This boosts the development of BRICS domestic and regional bond markets, including by increasing foreign private sector participation” to enhance financial resilience of BRICS countries.

Progress toward interbank local currency credit lines and related cooperation in credit ratings also fall in this critical economic governance category. This is an especially urgent development as each BRICS country navigates the incumbent global credit regime affecting each county’s room for maneuver in managing their national economies within the realities of global economic integration.

While global economic governance is at the core of the BRICS agenda, the bloc increasingly has to navigate the security dynamics of a very problematic geopolitical strategic landscape. The Cold War may be over but the historical East-West dynamic reflects that ‘a luta continua,’ as used to be the refrain among Lusophone Africa’s liberation movements. Hence the emerging importance of the BRICS High Representatives for Security Issues and Foreign Ministers Meetings. Against the backdrop of the BRICS Economic Partnership agenda, this grouping could play an increasingly important role in navigating, mediating and stabilizing intra-BRICS geopolitical contestation as highlighted by the pre-summit Himalayan brinksmanship between China and India precipitated by Beijing’s gambit for increasing its politico-diplomatic leverage in Bhutan at the expense of New Delhi.

The Doklam ‘great gamesmanship’ is indicative of what is patently not in the interest of the sustainability of BRICS as an economic semi-alliance with a global geopolitical-economic agenda. If there is a repeat of Doklam and/or similar face-offs within the Russia-India-China (RIC) triangle, the future stability of BRICS as a much-needed balancer within the G20 club governance framework has to be considered uncertain at best. The pattern of Sino-Indian dynamics is unwaveringly Indo-reactivity versus Sino-proactivity with Russia caught in the middle.

Therefore, there is sustained need for the High Representatives for Security Issues and Foreign Ministers to establish a continuity mechanism to monitor, anticipate and mediate the ongoing Sino-Indian dynamics that are an ever-present threat to BRICS stability and credibility. This may be facilitated by India’s concerns being reflected in the Xiamen Declaration referencing terrorist groups inhabiting Pakistan’s lawless frontier regions abutting the regional nexus of Beijing’s Belt-Road Initiative and Moscow’s Eurasian Economic Union. Perhaps Brazil’s proposal for establishing an Intelligence Forum might strengthen the High Representatives-Foreign Ministers process.

From a collective BRICS geopolitical standpoint, China’s ‘BRICS-Plus’ initiative received predictable pushback from India. However, there is no reason why a page out of the Indian Ocean Rim Association playbook in establishing ‘dialogue partners’ should not be considered, interacting with each country’s regional outreach. This may be coupled with BRICS supporting the establishment of a ‘Zones of Peace and Cooperation’ system to manage continental-maritime peace and security underpinnings of global economic governance. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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