The article ‘From Yekaterinburg to Brasilia: BRICS and the G20, road to nowhere?’ published in the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional – RBPI (Vol. 63, n.1 – 2020) presents the history of the BRICS grouping with a focus to their political articulation as a motor for change in the international financial regime through their relevance and representativity in the G20. Nevertheless, the reform in the financial regime did not go as expected and, especially China, sought the creation of new international institutions. To talk about their contribution, the authors Niall Duggan and Juan Carlos Ladines Azalia gave an interview to Camila Jardim, Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of International Relations of the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC-Rio) and researcher at the BRICS Policy Center.
In the text you affirm the BRICS group have forged a collective identity. Nonetheless, further in the conclusion, you affirm that China has used the BRICS as a foreign policy tool and, now, the BRICS seems not to be a priority for the Chinese. In this context, I would like you to discuss what do you understand by a collective identity of the BRICS group and whether the group was not only a reflex of pragmatism and common interests in the global governance instead of identity. Furthermore, could we still talk about a collective BRICS identity now?
A collective identity allows for collective action towards achieving common interests. Social incentives both positive and negative are created within that identity. In the case of the BRICS it is how the BRICS as a group undertake collective policy actions. The fact that this identity is created around pragmatism and common interests, does not preclude this identity from having an effect on how the members of the BRICS act in achieving that common goal. A collective identity is created to deal with a particular international context, when that context changes, so much most the identity it most adapts and changes or it fades overtime becoming less relative for particular member. An example of this process can be seen in the case of the UK in terms of EU membership.
Can we still talk about a collective BRICS identity? While the BRICS identity is still a factor for consideration, social incentives, both positive and negative created by the BRICS identity, do not have the same effect on all the members equally. It is clear that social incentives offered by the BRICS identity are no longer enough to encourage China to channel its foreign policy actions via the BRICS group. In the end, China has developed a more independent policy in terms of global governance reform.
The text presents a very interesting point: BRICS relevance in the Chinese foreign policy seems to be directly related to G20’s relevance in promoting reforms in the international financial system. When the G20 showed itself inefficient in promoting reforms and giving more relevance to emerging countries, China sought the creation of independent institutions, such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) became proportionally way less relevant. Do you believe that China has abandoned its ‘pacific ascension’ and is now playing a great power’s strategy? In your opinion, the tensions with India for influence in South East Asia hinder the possibilities of deepening the BRICS cooperation?
Under Xi Jinping’s leadership it is clear that China has been taking a more proactive approach to its foreign policy. While this is not a clear break with China’s ‘pacific ascension’ it is unclear that China is now playing a great power’s strategy. For the most part China has return to a long-standing foreign policy of insuring its borders and trade routes through projecting military and economic power. While the military power projection has remained limited the economic projection of power through the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a clear strategy to integrate the China’s economy in the wider regional economy, creating a dependence on the Chinese market and Chinese investment capital.
A tension between China and India – including the increasingly violent border conflict between the two Asian giants- is a clear barrier to this wider Chinese strategy in the region. These tensions may not develop in to a full conflict between China and India but there is little indication that the tension will be resolved within the near future. As such it is clear that India will move to balance against China including increasing its cooperation with the US. This suggests that there is little room for deepening the cooperation within the BRICS.
Considering now that the G20 is not the only most relevant financial international forum and that the financial regime was the main topic that brought the BRICS together, as well as reflecting on your affirmation that the BRICS countries want to be ‘rule makers’ instead of ‘rule takers’, do you think that is there any other relevant contribution the BRICS as a group can currently present to the world order? Considering also its loss of relevance for Brazil and China’s foreign policy, is there still a raison d’être for the group?
The raison d’être for the BRICS in some ways has remained the same. The group was formed to promote the voice of emerging economies in global governance. This would allow emerging economies to become ‘rule makers’, However the other aspect of this raison d’être is that the group looked to prevent any one member of the group from developing a dominant position within global governance beyond the other members. Despite the loss of relevance for China of the BRICS, the group will still be a useful tool for China to manage its relationship with the other members. Ironically a group’s whose raison d’être was to prevent any one member from rising above the group may become a tool for China to manage its relationship with a group of emerging economies who will remain rule takers as China becomes a rule maker.
Read the article
Duggan, Niall, & Azalia, Juan Carlos Ladines. (2020). From Yekaterinburg to Brasilia: BRICS and the G20, road to nowhere?. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 63(1), e009. Epub August 07, 2020.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329202000109
About the authors
Niall Duggan – University College Cork, Government, Cork, Ireland
Juan Carlos Ladines Azalia – Universidad del Pacifico, International Business, Lima, Peru
Camila Amorim Jardim – Institute of International Relations of the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC-Rio) and researcher at the BRICS Policy Center.
How to cite this interview