On Wednesday, August 28, the Valdai Discussion Club hosted an expert discussion, titled “BRICS: Development Goals 2030”. The Valdai Club experts and participants in the scientific and educational programme of the BRICS International School discussed the strategic development of BRICS, changes in international politics and economics, and the growing role of regional organisations and associations.
The discussion, which brought together eminent scientists and young researchers from all the BRICS countries, clearly showed that this association is taken seriously everywhere, despite its informal nature, cultural and political differences, as well as disagreements on a number of issues. The reason is that all these states are unanimous in their opinions regarding the changing nature of the world order and are ready to form a common front amid uncertain global conditions.
The discussion centred on development issues of paramount importance for each BRICS country. According to their shared vision, sustainable development consists of three components: economic growth, environmental protection and social progress. However, ideas about the ways to achieve these objectives vary from country to country. Therefore, as the experts noted, it is important to exchange views at such forums.
When it comes to development, the experience of China, which has managed to bring hundreds of millions of its citizens out of poverty over the past few decades, has always attracted particular attention. According to Zhu Tianxiang, Deputy Dean of the School of International Studies and Director of the Centre for International Relations Studies at the BRICS Research Institute of the Sichuan University of Foreign Languages, the Chinese word héxié, translated as “harmony”, begins with a hieroglyph, the first element of which is the same as that of the word “seedlings”. According to Zhu Tianxiang, there can be no harmony in society unless citizens are fed, first and foremost. But food is not provided for free: in order for citizens to obtain food, they must work, and in order to have work, they must be skilled. This is exactly how the Chinese strategy of building a “harmonious society” worked in its essence, when it was implemented under the leadership of the Communist Party.
The overcoming of inequality also plays an important role: between genders, between the city and the village, and between the individual regions of the country. This was indicated by both the Chinese speaker, who mentioned the contrast in terms of development between the coastal and inland areas of China, and his colleagues from other countries. Mpambukele Tulisi, Senior Lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning at University of the Free State in South Africa, drew attention to two problems that all BRICS states face to one degree or another: poverty and corruption. The economy, she said, should become more inclusive, dynamic and promote equality.
For all BRICS countries, participation in this bloc is a way to increase their international status, the experts noted. A special case is Brazil, which presides in the association this year. According to Julia de Souza Borba Gonçalves, Research Fellow at the Institute for Applied Economic Research (Brazil), today the administration of Jair Bolsonaro faces a number of challenges related to BRICS. They include relations with China (during his election campaign, Bolsonaro promised to reduce Brazil’s economic dependence on China), relations with the United States (the pro-American position of the Brazilian president sharply distinguishes him from his predecessors, under whom the country began to actively participate in BRICS affairs) and the contradictions regarding Venezuela. Julia de Souza Borba Gonçalves believes that the main problem for the Bolsonaro administration within the framework of BRICS is the role of China and Russia in the Venezuelan crisis: unlike Brazil and the United States, which support the self-proclaimed president of the country Juan Guaidó, they support the country's legitimate authorities. However, despite this, Brazil appreciates the role of the association, believing that it contributes to the establishment of South-South cooperation and the democratisation of the international order, which is in line with its national interests.
Commenting on the topic of Venezuela, Nandan Unnikrishnan, Honorary Member of the Observer Research Foundation, expressed confidence that the contradictions associated with it are not significant enough to break the BRICS. “If you look at what is happening in Venezuela and compare it to what is happening between India and China, that is like going to kindergarten, while we are at a serious university,” he said. India and China, despite their differences, are still members of BRICS and see their future there. “The reason is that the glue that holds us together in BRICS is far greater than the divergences. And that glue is the recognition that we are living in a changing world, we are very uncertain about what kind of world is going to emerge, but we are very certain about one thing: that we want our voices heard in whatever the rules for a new world are,” the Indian expert concluded.