The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) agreed to welcome six new members at their summit in Johannesburg last week (22-24 August).
The expansion debate dominated proceedings, with China preferring a rapid expansion, while India and Brazil wanted a more incremental approach.
Ultimately China, accounting for around 70% of total BRICS GDP, won the day: by the summit’s end, Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the UAE had received invitations to join the BRICS in 2024.
Intrigue’s take: There are so many competing interests at play here:
- 🇨🇳 China sees BRICS as a way to project inevitability behind its rise
- 🇧🇷 Brazil is hedging its bets, but is mindful of China pushing too far
- Ditto for 🇮🇳 India, which presumably accepted new members knowing they’d limit the bloc’s unity and effectiveness for China
- 🇷🇺 Russia sees BRICS expansion as a way to reduce its own isolation, and
- 🇿🇦 South Africa wins status by hosting a high-profile summit.
But after years of these summits, the BRICS are still searching for a coherent mission, a common purpose, and a meaningful track record. So even as it gets bigger, the BRICS bloc doesn’t appear to be getting any stronger.
Also worth noting:
- In announcing the expansion, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the original members had “consensus on the first phase of this expansion process, and further phases will follow.”
- The newly invited BRICS members have a combined GDP of around $3T (3% of global GDP).