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BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia

BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia: The unusual degree of official enthusiasm in South Africa for this summit serves, according to some observers, to underline just how far and how fast this country seems to be moving away from the West, not only towards a more multipolar world, but also firmly into the orbit of China and, to a lesser extent, Russia.

BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia

At a recent pre-summit meeting of Brics foreign ministers in Cape Town, and at a foreign policy workshop organized by the South African government, there was overwhelming consensus that China was the future and the West was in decline.

After three decades in power, the African National Congress (ANC) is struggling to rid itself of infighting, corruption and administrative chaos.

Faced with the war in Ukraine, for example, the South African government offered a confusing set of responses: first condemning the invasion, then ostensibly refusing to condemn it, then blaming NATO, praising Putin, offering to mediate peace, hosting Russian naval exercises, rushing to explain itself to Washington and glibly repeating the Kremlin’s talking points.

Finally, it remains to be seen whether South Africa supplied arms to Russia last year, as the US claims.

BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia

There is no doubt that President Ramaphosa is deeply uncomfortable with Russia’s invasion, and is keen to present himself as a wise and neutral advocate of a more multipolar world.

But many members of his government and party regularly undermine this position, often invoking nostalgia for Moscow’s support during the struggle against apartheid and a more general distrust of US foreign policy.

This disjointed message succeeded in irritating all parties to the conflict and making South Africa appear weak and indecisive.

Nelson Mandela’s “rainbow nation” is certainly in trouble at the moment, some even going so far as to say that it could soon become a “failed state”.

Driven by China, enlargement tears coalition apart

Some 50 “Brics-friendly” heads of state are also expected to attend the summit, which runs until Thursday August 24. The theme of the meeting is “BRICS and Africa”. On the agenda for this year’s Johannesburg summit will be the possible enlargement of the BRICS.

Africa is a new diplomatic challenge for the West, Russia and China, who are vying for influence against a backdrop of divisions fanned by the conflict in Ukraine and tensions between China and the United States. An increase in the number of BRICS members could give greater weight to the bloc and its message of global reform.

“An expanded BRICS will represent a diverse group of nations with different political systems who share a common desire for a more balanced world order.”

Some forty countries have applied for membership or expressed interest in joining the group, including Iran, Argentina, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. Nearly twenty of these countries have formally applied for membership.

Iran and Venezuela, under sanctions, are seeking to reduce their isolation and hope that the bloc can provide relief for their downing economies. “Other global integration frameworks are blinded by the hegemonic vision of the US government,” said Ramón Lobo, former finance minister and governor of Venezuela’s central bank.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates see the BRICS as a way of playing a more important role in global forums, analysts believe. As for Ethiopia and Nigeria, they are attracted by the bloc’s commitment to reforms at the United Nations that would give greater weight to the African continent.

But enlargement has become a point of contention.

Russia is keen to welcome new members to counter its diplomatic isolation following its invasion of Ukraine. South Africa has also expressed its support.

India, which is wary of Chinese domination and has warned against hasty expansion, has “a positive intention and an open mind”, said Foreign Minister Vinay Kwatra on Monday. Brazil, meanwhile, fears that BRICS expansion will dilute its influence.

What do the BRICS want?

These countries are calling for international organizations such as the UN Security Council and the Bretton Woods institutions – the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, etc. – to be rebuilt.

At present, at the IMF, for example, the 5 BRICS countries have just 10% of the votes, and 15% at the World Bank. A distribution which, in the eyes of the BRICS leaders, under-represents them on the international stage. In contrast, BRICS decisions are taken unanimously, on the principle of “one country – one vote”.

BRICS Summit – How South Africa is banking on China and Russia

BRICS members are also trying to break the hegemony of the US dollar in trade. They are promoting the use of their national currencies for trade. Brazil has even floated the idea of launching a common BRICS currency to counter the US dollar. The idea is on the table, but will not be officially discussed at the Johannesburg summit.