China calls on Brics to be a geopolitical rival of G7

This week, China will try to make the Brics group of emerging markets a rival to the G7. Leaders from around the world are gathering to discuss the largest expansion the forum has seen in over a decade.

South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa invited over 60 heads of state to a Johannesburg summit starting on Wednesday. Several officials who are familiar with the talks said that several countries may be invited to join a bloc consisting of Brazil, Russia India China and South Africa.

New Delhi and Beijing have clashed over the issue of expansion in the lead-up to this summit. People briefed about India and China’s views said tensions are rising over whether Brics is a non-aligned group for economic interests of developing nations, or a force that challenges the west openly. South African officials have said that 23 countries are interested.

If we expand Brics so that it accounts for the same portion of the world’s GDP as the G7 then our collective voice will become stronger in the world,” said a Chinese official who declined to identify himself.

Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Foreign Minister, stated this month that it is “extremely incorrect” to view a possible Brics expansion in an anti-western way. Western capitals will likely view the addition of Iran, Belarus, and Venezuela as an attempt to embrace Russia and China’s allies.

Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia all want to become the first new members in the group since South Africa joined the original Brazil, Russia India, and China group in 2010.

Vladimir Putin won’t be joining other Brics leaders at Johannesburg. Pretoria will not be obligated to arrest the Russian leader, after the International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes in Ukraine.

According to the Kremlin, Putin will attend via video link. He spoke with Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi about Tehran’s request to join the Brics on August 17, and discussed the application.

China’s Foreign Ministry announced that Xi Jinping would travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, on Monday, for the summit, and for other discussions with African leader. This will be a rare overseas trip for the Chinese President this year. Xi has only made one other international trip in 2023, to Russia in march.

Brazil’s president Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva recently spoke in favor of allowing neighbouring Argentina and Venezuela as well as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela to join Brics.

One senior diplomat in Brasilia stated that it was important to establish clear conditions as the basis of any expansion. The requirement that applicants join the New Development Bank – the Shanghai-based lender established by the Brics – could be one of them. Saudi Arabia has been in talks with the multilateral bank to become its ninth member.

The diplomat stated that it was important to define criteria for these new members. The diplomat said that it was unlikely that 23 countries would all join at once, but that “they needed to know why this decision was made [and] that future expansions will happen, they know the priority issues”.

The officials guiding the pre-summit discussions have stated that Brics leaders will need to agree on criteria for new membership.

The members added that a currency was not on the table, despite the growing discontent among the members over the US dollar dominance.

Officials familiar with the discussions suggested that instead of a push for a de-dollarisation agenda, the summit might focus on achieving an agreement whereby Brics member countries settle their trade in local currencies.