Chinese President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the BRICS Business Forum—that was attended, for the first time, by heads of state and government from over five nations—underlined both the successful track-record of BRICS and its unique leadership for the future.
Meeting concerns about BRICS’ physical and systemic shortcomings head-on, President Xi injected new hope in the institution by sharing his convictions on BRICS' strong potential, which he believes to be rooted in standing together as they share a similar “stage of development,” which results in “sharing the same development goals.” He gave BRICS new energy and synergy that will propel it to “blaze a new path” to help developing nations chart the courses toward rapid development.
President Xi said that global economic structures face challenges from shrinking global demand, which impacts the trade and investments of developing countries especially. He shared his concern about increasing “inward looking” tendencies in certain advanced nations triggering a policy drift and mentality of protectionism. He urged BRICS to enhance intra-BRICS trade by becoming more “open to each other” to share development opportunities, which will not only enhance and grow their share of the global economy, but also make the pie of global economy much bigger. The key to doing so lies in reforming global governance structures and launching new innovative strategies, according to him.
Armed by inspiring figures and calculations, President Xi explained in detail how growth rates alone should no longer be the measurement of BRICS potential. He urged BRICS and its partner nations to together explore “new paths” of development and pursue “innovation driven growth,” using new “internet plus” models of development. He spoke of the new industrial revolution and how it should serve as a springboard into a “second golden decade” of BRICS in which business leaders will play a crucial role in empowering the group to achieve its full potential.
President Xi made a forecast that BRICS would become not only a major locomotive for South-South cooperation but also a catalyst for North-South dialogue to diffuse global economic risk, especially considering continued economic deceleration. This is where President Xi sought to underline the need for serious work to build a “BRICS Plus” mechanism to enhance BRICS’ influence by adding new partners. President Xi sought to debunk any lingering misconceptions that the “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” is an instrument to increase China’s geopolitical importance. Global stakeholders were reassured to hear him underscore China’s commitment to use BRI as a multilateral platform for shared development especially for developing countries. President Xi stressed BRICS’ role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and emphasized that enhancing cultural and inter-societal connections of BRICS would be a real source of strength to move the group forward.
It was music to Indian ears to hear President Xi categorically underline BRICS commitment to “fight terrorism in all its forms” until “terrorists have nowhere to hide.” As part of a larger point relating to what Xi called inherent links between security and development, the president urged BRICS to build an “international security order” to address new challenges threatening the global peace of last half a century. According to Xi, the world holds expectations for BRICS to address new challenges including terrorism. Some of these ideas are likely to be reflected in the joint declaration concluding the 9th BRICS summit.
Swaran Singh is a professor at the School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University.