In July this year, South Africa will host the 10th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. Once again, after South Africa hosting the BRICS Durban Summit in 2013, the ship of BRICS cooperation will sail into the rainbow nation of South Africa and sail toward the second golden decade of the BRICS.
BRICS cooperation was established as a response to the 2008 international financial storm. South Africa joined the BRICS in 2010. Since its establishment, the BRICS has associated itself with Africa, the continent with the largest number of developing countries, and has become an emerging powers cooperation mechanism that reaches across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. After 10 years of development, BRICS cooperation has left far behind the outdated practices of political and military alliance, and has established a new type of relations of partnership instead of alliance. BRICS cooperation has transcended the old mentality of drawing lines according to ideology, and has walked a path of mutual respect and common progress. BRICS cooperation has transcended the old idea of zero-sum game and the winner takes all, and has implemented the new concept of win-win cooperation for common development. Today, BRICS has already established itself as a major force in shaping the modernization of international governance.
BRICS cooperation has become the main engine driving world economic growth. The combined population of China, South Africa, Russia, India and Brazil accounts for 40 percent of world’s total, and from 2006 to 2016, the share of the BRICS aggregate economy in the global total has increased from 12 percent to 23 percent, trade volume from 11 percent to 16 percent, and foreign direct investment from 7 percent to 12 percent. Together, BRICS countries contribute to over 50 percent of world economic growth, which exceeds the contribution of all developed countries combined. BRICS countries voting share in the World Bank and the share quota in the IMF have respectively increased to 13.19 percent and 14.84 percent.
The BRICS unity and cooperation has helped strengthen the force for fairness and justice in the international community. BRICS countries have held high the banner of peace, development, cooperation and win-win, maintained effective coordination and collaboration in the United Nations, G20 and other major international fora. BRICS countries have worked actively towards the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. On hotspot issues and major global challenges such as the climate change, the five countries have demonstrated BRICS wisdom, contributed BRICS plans, and expressed BRICS voices, upholding the fundamental principles and authority of the United Nations and the international laws, effectively safeguarding the common interest of all developing countries. The BRICS+ initiative proposed during last year’s BRICS Xiamen Summit has opened up a new prospect of broadening the BRICS’ circle of friends, and has gained extensive attention and popular support.
BRICS cooperation has produced remarkable results and brought concrete benefits to the peoples of BRICS member states. Over the past 10 years, BRICS’ total GDP has grown by 179 percent, trade expanded by 94 percent, and urban population increased by 28 percent, bringing the sense of achievement to over 3 billion population across the member states. With the further progress in the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership, BRICS mutually beneficial economic cooperation is expected to produce more fruitful results. The New Development Bank established in 2015 with an initial capitalization of $100 billion has already reserved sufficient capital to support member states in infrastructure development and production cooperation. The BRICS contingency reserve with $100 billion offers member states a robust line of defense against financial risks. These milestone efforts mark major steps of emerging countries to jointly tackle global challenges through the establishment of a collective financial safety net. By doing so, the BRICS mechanism has been operating in a fundamentally different way with the global financial system long held by the West, and has offered a new choice for all the developing countries in their pursuit of self-sustainable development. Unlike the World Bank and the IMF, the capitalization of the New Development Bank are equally shared among five BRICS countries and accordingly, the decisions of the Bank are based on consultation on an equal footing and based on the rules of the market. Consistent with the trend of times, the New Development Bank fully encapsulates the principle of equal partnership, mutual benefit, and win-win, and has become an accelerator and an engine for the financial stability of the BRICS countries and of the whole world.
For the BRICS, South Africa is a major participant, contributor and beneficiary. More importantly, South Africa is a leader and a bridge in connecting BRICS’ development cooperation with Africa. From 2011 to 2016, South Africa’s trade with other BRICS partners has increased 54.7 percent. As South Africa’s strongest BRICS partner, Chinese investment in South Africa has grown significantly over the years, and has reached $25 billion on accumulative terms, creating hundreds of thousands of local jobs in South Africa. In 2017, bilateral trade between China and South Africa increased by 15.4 percent year on year and registered $39.17 billion. Today, China is South Africa’s largest trading partner and a major source of foreign investment and overseas tourists.
In 2017, the New Development Bank opened its Africa Regional Center in Johannesburg and committed to approve $1.5 billion of loans within 18 months of its opening. It is certain that BRICS cooperation will create more strength for the development of South Africa and Africa, and will generate more opportunities for Africa to realize self-sustainable development.
The five BRICS member states are like the five fingers of hand, each one is different, but they all complement each other. The shared strategic interests of the BRICS offer the robust and constant strengths of cohesion, making the five countries move like a well-coordinated and flexible hand. The world has been going through profound changes in terms of the global structure and shifting strengths between the North and the South. As protectionism and exclusivism makes its way into certain major powers, the world is increasingly confronted with the willful acts of trade war, challenges against economic globalization and multilateral regime, and increasing instabilities and uncertainties in international political, economic and security domains. Against such complicated and acute challenges, stronger unity and cooperation among the BRICS and the developing countries is the inevitable and the only correct path forward.
As the chair for this year’s BRICS, South Africa, after closely examining the new developments in the international situations and the new characteristics of BRICS cooperation, has proposed the fourth industrial revolution and inclusive growth as priorities for this year’s summit among others, and has proposed concrete measures to deepen BRICS+ cooperation, which have been warmly welcomed and actively supported by China and other BRICS partners. China will give its full support to South Africa for a successful BRICS Summit, and will work together to inject new momentum into fully deepening BRICS strategic partnership, and create a new chapter for BRICS cooperation.
This year marks the centenary of the birth of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela. The BRICS’ open, inclusive, cooperative and win-win spirit is highly consistent with the Mandela spirit. It is also the long-cherished wish of Mandela and all other previous generations of the revolutionary leaders of the African National Congress to fight for a more fair, just, and equitable international order. We are fully convinced that, as long as the BRICS countries strengthen our unity and committed ourselves to win-win cooperation for common development, BRICS cooperation will embrace new vigor and dynamism in the second Golden Decade, and be even more productive in delivering benefits to the peoples of Africa, the developing countries, and the world, and will become a model and make new contribution to the establishment of a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation and a community with a shared future for mankind.
The author is the Chinese Ambassador to South Africa