“From BRICS to BRICS+ — and beyond”

Diary of a Corbyn foot soldier  (July, 2022) 

By Michael Murray 

Dictionary definition of foot soldier: “…a dedicated low level follower.”

(1) BRICS 14th annual Summit meeting 

Imagine: an organisation representing 43% of the world’s population across four continents,  comprising 30% of the global land area, currently producing 24% of global GDP and responsible for 16% of world trade – convenes a virtual meeting for 2600 participants, not counting their back-up teams, advisors and other ancillary staff.   

The IMF estimates that same organisation’s growth rate as being over twice as fast as that of the US and, with present composition, destined to comprise over 50% of global GDP by end of this decade.  

The organisation is BRICS: acronym for “Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa,” its founding member states, soon to be joined by many other countries from across the world: a process under way since the 2017 Summit meeting and labelled BRICS+ 

The meeting was the BRICS 14th Annual Summit hosted and presided over by China, in virtual format.  It should be mentioned here that the venue (in non-Covid times) and the presidency is rotated annually, following the positioning of the participating countries in the BRICS acronym. Thus, it was India’s turn last year and South Africa’s in 2023.

The Heads of State and government of 18 countries took part in this year’s online forum. As well as Chinese President Xi Jinping, these included the leaders of Uzbekistan, the President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the President of Argentina Alberto Fernandez, the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, the President of Indonesia Joko Widodo,  the President of Iran Ibrahim Raisi, the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, the President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, the Vice President of Brazil Hamilton Mourao, as well as the heads of governments of Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Fiji and Ethiopia. 

This would constitute some media event, you might think, made more accessible, and low cost, in its virtual format. But try searching in the British, Irish mainstream media and you’ll find the barest mention – with the exception of the more rarified business and financial press. 

And, this is even harder to fathom, especially, when the scale, depth and significance of BRICS – and its achievements –  is grasped, touched on in the opening paragraph above. And all within a timeframe of less than 16 years: a mere half a generation.  A time period, as we all know, which included one cataclysmic global financial crash followed less than a decade later by an almost 3 year-long global pandemic. 

(2)  A Brief Report on this year’s BRICS Summit

“The 14th BRICS Summit held on June 23 and 24 issued the consensual Beijing Declaration, in which BRICS countries reiterate their commitment to multilateralism, emphasising that global governance should be made more inclusive, representative and participatory, and avow to uphold international law and the central role of the United Nations in the international system. 

“The Declaration also urges major developed countries to adopt responsible economic policies while managing policy spillovers to avoid severe impacts on developing countries. When the world’s development has entered a new period of turbulent changes, the issuance of the Beijing Declaration is of special significance.   

“The messages conveyed by the BRICS Summit is worthy of careful reading by the international community, especially the US and Western countries. If they do so, it is believed that it will deepen and enhance their understanding of the BRICS countries, the emerging markets represented by the BRICS group, as well as the developing nations, and to correct their prejudices. It is a process in which the Western world and non-Western world strengthen communication rather than confrontation

 “Today, the US also claims that it engages in “multilateralism.” But in the mechanisms established by the US, although it seems that there are many parties involved, the US is the only dominant force. Relying on its strength and position, the US totally dominates the formulation of institutional rules, and the US  rules are the paramount rules in its small circle. Some US media claimed that the G7 Summit and NATO Summit this time will form “unprecedented unity” on “major challenges,” and safeguard “the US-centred Western democratic camp.” These words seem to bring people back to the Cold War era.

It is not surprising that in the US and Western public opinion, some narrow-mindedly believe that the BRICS mechanism wants to create an “anti-US alliance.” This is not only a deliberate trap of wording but is also creating an “imaginary enemy.” In order to maintain absolute obedience within the small circle, the US inevitably needs to constantly seek and create enemies. However, as it increasingly deviates from global common interests, the small circle’s ability to dominate international issues will inevitably continue to decline. The rest of the world will view these dangerous small circles with anxiety.

The world has once again come to the crossroads. Peace or war? Development or decline? Opening up or closing? Cooperation or confrontation? These questions are thought-provoking. For a turbulent world full of challenges, the BRICS Summit is a surprise. We hope that the upcoming G7 Summit and NATO Summit will not startle the world. We have a suggestion: The G7 Summit may just as well carefully read the 14th BRICS Summit Beijing Declaration, and it will definitely be rewarding.”  

The article above is from The Global Times, a tabloid published in Chinese and English and is described by Wikipedia as part of a broader set of Chinese state media outlets that constitute the Chinese government’s propaganda apparatus 

   G7 Summit should read BRICS Beijing Declaration carefully: Global Times editorial

To those of our readers of a weaker disposition, brought up on a steady, unbiased diet of the Daily Mail, The Guardian and scrupulous and diligent honest broker journalists like Paul Mason, and struggling to differentiate Government – any Government – propaganda from a genuine attempt to convey its policies to its own people in a fair, reasonable and measured manner  –  we say you have been warned. 

To those on the British Left still trying to get your heads around China’s place in your political thinking can we suggest you revisit an earlier article in this magazine ?

LINK: Why isn’t the British Left excited about what’s happening in China? September 1st, 2021, Labour Affairs

Or look at the serious business publications and their analysis of what’s going on in the world. Exercising a modicum of discernment and discretion you’ll find it more informative than what passes for serious analysis in our movement these days.It’s as if the murderous wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya and Yugoslavia had never happened.  Or that we’ve chosen to forget all we learned about the perfidiousness of the countries that instigated  those wars – and many others across the world – as we cheer them on in their bloody proxy war in Ukraine..   

 (3) The Yellow BRICS Road ….

To prove a point: the most thorough coverage of BRICS I came across researching this article was in a publication called SILK ROAD BRIEFING  produced by Dezan Shira and Associates. The latter’s core business is rather different to The People’s Daily as the following blurb shows:

“Dezan Shira & Associates is a pan-Asia, multi-disciplinary professional services firm, providing legal, tax and operational advisory to international corporate investors. Operational throughout China, ASEAN, Vietnam & India, our mission is to guide foreign companies through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assist them with all aspects of establishing, maintaining and growing their business operations in the region.” 

Chris Devonshire-Ellis, an experienced and knowledgeable Asia and China hand associated with Silk Road Briefing, opens his article on BRICS with a comparison between G7 and BRICS which wouldn’t be out of place in the People’s Daily or The Global Times.  And why should it? Both are describing the same reality, if for different purposes.

The contrast could not be more different, he writes. G7, including the USA, UK, EU, Canada and Japan: “mainly white, powerful Western nations, representing contemporary global leadership.” While BRICS is: “a grouping of globally powerful emerging markets wanting a larger say in the developing world.”  

The BRICS nations, he continues, differ from the G7 in two main factors, most notably in the populations they serve – 3 billion as opposed to the G7’s mere 987 million (including the EU),  but where the G7’s GDP is currently US$33.93 trillion and the BRICS’s about US$23.5 trillion. However, their relative financial strengths, as we’ve already noted, is predicted by none other than the IMF to be reversed over the next decade or so, based on present trajectories.  

He then goes on to make a crucial distinction between the two bodies. The G7 grouping are committed to the existing world order, meaning centred around the USA and led and said by its foreign, global and domestic policies. 

More, he points out that whereas China is the world’s second largest economy – for the moment, and depending on how the calculations are done (ie, PPP or nominal GDP) – and India they don’t have a commensurate say in global institutions like the World Bank or the IMF.  

And this has led to the BRICS “New Development Bank” initiative – and the more radical idea of a “Contingent Reserve Arrangement,” intended, as Points 12 and 42 of the Declaration, and Devonshire-Ellis ever useful commentary on it makes clear, to support developing economies hit by catastrophes like Covid as an alternative to dependence on the WHO, WB and IMF, all of which were found wanting in that crisis – and leave us unprepared for any subsequent one.  

These countries are beginning to seriously question their place and role in the UN also – that will be addressed in a subsequent article.

There follows a user-friendly run-through of the BRICS Summit 2022 main document – The Beijing Declaration with Devonshire-Ellis’s educated commentaries on the salient points. 

Where else would you get it ?  From Liz Truss? Kamala Harris ?  From the left or right of our own Labour movement ?  

(4)  Ah, NATO …. 

It wasn’t only BRICS and G7 that held meetings in June. There was the Madrid NATO summit.

Devonshire-Ellis has some surprising things to say about that too. But maybe not that surprising given how grounded a business like Dezan Shira & Associates has to be, providing the service it provides. 

Regarding the Declaration’s reference to Ukraine Downshire-Ellis’s  comments:

The BRICS nations have largely refrained from criticizing Russia as concerns the Ukraine situation, where it is believed to be an issue created largely by NATO. The G7 regards it as being created by Russia. Part of the issue relates to claims by Russia of ‘genocide’ in Donbass inflicted by the Ukrainian military under the auspices of a Ukraine government intolerant of ethnic Russians based in Ukraine. That highly emotive issue does appear not to have been adequately dealt with by the UN, while NATO comments concerning Ukraine membership have made the matter worse. It is telling that Russia, a member of BRICS, agreed to a declaration that expressed a peaceful solution and to uphold ‘territorial integrity’ – the definition of which is part of the problem between Moscow, Kiev and Washington.”    

Elsewhere Downshire-Ellis quotes a NATO strategic statement to go on to make a powerful point.

“NATO believes that the deepening of partnership between Russia and China violates the alliance’s values and interests. According to NATO, China seeks to undermine the current world order by controlling global logistics and its economy.” 

Downshire-Ellis comments: This signals another communications breakdown, this time with China. The use of the term ‘violates’ is particularly strong. The mention of the ‘current world order’ is interesting as in the BRICS statement just last week, the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) stated that the ‘current world order’ was preserving a ‘unipolar world’ with the United States essentially in control and that they wanted to devolve this structure into a fairer, ‘multipolar’ world with greater say in world affairs from all nations. 

“NATO appears to view that as a threat to its own interests. This is a clear signal of a near complete breakdown between the Western countries represented by NATO – and the emerging global economies. “

It is also of interest that NATO believes that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – although not specifically mentioned – is a security risk as China has invested in logistics capabilities on a global basis – at a time when the West has not. In fact, an OECD report from 2018 stated that the BRI was “regionally positive and statistically significant” in developing global trade. 

“Opinions concerning the BRI have been many and varied, basically boiling down to a choice about the BRI (and therefore China) either being a security threat or being a global trade conduit. This is a matter of perception, rather than facts. 

“In this case NATO’s criticism of China appears based less on a reality truth than as a perceived truth. This is a difficult, almost impossible bridge to cross. It also indicates that NATO wishes to cut itself off from any BRI connectivity. Given that there are currently 195 countries globally and that 138 of them have signed BRI agreements that also leaves NATO with a remarkably small pool of future trade and infrastructure partners. I question the wisdom of this.”     

LINK: NATO’s Strategic Concept 2022 Views 75% Of The BRICS Economies A Security Threat – Analysis, 30 June, 2022, posted by silkroadbriefing.com 

(5)  In Conclusion: Why the Beijing Declaration should be read 

The Beijing Declaration is no Mao’s little Red Book or collection of the usual conference sound bites, but a serious socio-economic programme – and action plan.

And Chris Downshire-Ellis has done a wonderful job making the 75 paragraphs, or subject areas accessible for those who want to glimpse the new world the previously colonised and plundered countries, euphemistically called the “developing countries,” are building. 

To underscore that important point and, also, to give an overview of the content., here are the headings:  

Introduction: 1 – 4        

Global Governance & Policy Finance Reforms:  5 – 13 

Global Covid Response: 14 – 19 

Global Peace & Security (includes statements about Ukraine): 20 – 36  

Global Economic Development: 37 – 51  

Global Sustainable Development: 52 – 61  

People-To-People & Cultural Development: 62 – 70  

Institutional Development: 71 – 75 

This is an important document that should be studied carefully by anyone concerned about politics – and the future of the planet. In particular, it should be read by the British left – if it is to reclaim that sense of the wider world and support for anti-imperialism – which if a minority interest at the best of times – was, nonetheless,  an important component of its socialism. 

In the words of Carlos Martinez, a North London near-neighbour of mine:

“If the theme of BRICS (14th Summit) was peace and multipolarity the theme of NATO  (Madrid ) was war and hegemony.”  

LINK: ‘NATO Calls China “Malicious” amid Western Media Blackout of BRICS Summit.”  (You Tube)


Facebook:  Michael Murray London –  an occasional commentary/digest of political news for busy people.

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