Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 51.2020
2020.12.14 — 2020.12.20
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Inspiration & Anxiety: China in Russia's contemporary ‎political discourse (Вдохновение и тревога: Китай в современном политическом дискурсе России) / Slovakia, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion

Russia and China have been maintaining both political and economic ties for years. Most people around the world have heard or read about that close partnership and even friendship between the two countries. However, it is just a view from the outside, so it does not reflect the very Russian perspective. That is why we present in this article an insiders' analysis of Russian optimism and anxiety about cooperation with China, in particular regional cooperation within BRICS.

Several Russian foreign policy think tanks recently discussed Russia's "drift to the East". This article focuses on the analysis of such discussion and particularly the assessment of Russian experts of China's role in BRICS, the cooperation format between Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Many Russian scholars believe that due to its financial might China plays a key role in BRICS. To explain the diversity of contemporary narratives of China in Russian political discourse we have examined 26 articles published by some of the most recognized Russian foreign policy think tanks.[1]

Common features in the Russian discourse on China

Our analysis aimed to structure the textual data to reveal patterns reflecting the experts' opinions about China's role in BRICS. In other words, we explored so-called discursive frames depicting regional cooperation structures. Overall, as a result of the narrative analysis we have detected seven common features widely seen in the articles of the abovementioned experts:

  • The global order has been altered, in particular the role of global economic governance. The shift is caused by a change in developing countries' statuses. They are increasing their economic performances as well as political presence;
  • Traditional Western international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank do not take into account the developing countries' status, which has been adjusted significantly;
  • We should note that we are talking here about the status of Russia and China as developing countries. China's role in the world has transformed dramatically since the early 2000s. It has gained economic power and started expanding it around the world. In comparison with China, Russia tried to change its political course at least from 2007. Moscow has chosen its foreign policy as containment of the West; thus, it has been contesting its status-quo in world politics. Chinese and Russian growing influence (economic and political respectively) meets as much optimism as fear and criticism from other states. There is still room for debate on how to interpret this situation. However, the key point here is that everyone pays attention to the evolution of the statuses of these two developing countries.
  • Western hegemony is being replaced by polycentrism;
  • The present-day international situation is a promising opportunity for BRICS. The current global governance and world order are lacking the balance between various new actors. Therefore, close cooperation within BRICS is becoming a chance to reach such a balance.
  • BRICS has chances to be considered a "new center of power";
  • National currencies of the BRICS members could become a substitute for the US dollar within BRICS or even globally;
  • BRICS has perspectives to provide controlled globalization and cross-regional integration processes.
Overall, our research showed that, according to a majority of the Russian experts, BRICS is assigned the role of a new responsible stakeholder in the international arena. However, more profound analyses raise new questions: since BRICS, above all, is a group of independent nation-states, does that consequently mean that their influence within BRICS is distributed so unevenly that it becomes an obstacle for a consistent common political and economic agenda? Does BRICS have the capacity to make any changes within the current international order? What is the unique agenda promoted by BRICS, and does the organization have a plan of common action?

An in-depth analysis of the abovementioned questions has shown that the Russian experts do not have a homogeneous opinion on Russian-Chinese cooperation within BRICS. We have identified those differences along the axis marked by us with two opposites: first, the inspiration of Russian experts by the bilateral interaction within BRICS, and, second, anxiety about China's growing influence within BRICS.

The inspiration: Russia's optimistic view of China

The inspirational segment of Russian political discourse represents the role and perspectives of China in BRICS in an optimistic way. Within this pool of articles, we have distinguished the following inspirational narratives and sub-narratives:

The equitable global order:

  • China advocates enhancing the role of the developing (low and middle income) countries on the international scene. Beijing's goal is to promote multilateral world order.
  • China attaches great importance to the political and economic interaction within BRICS, especially ties with Russia.
BEAMS is China's "circle of friends":

  • China offers the BEAMS[2]/BRICS+ format that implies inclusive win-win cooperation, which is primarily oriented toward "South-South" – a community of worldwide developing countries.
  • It is suggested that BRICS would become an "aggregative platform" for comprehensive cooperation between developing countries on several continents.
  • China considers and Russia supports BEAMS/BRICS+ as a basis for a new global economic architecture.
Global integration between developing countries is a priority:

  • China proposes regional and cross-regional economic integration against increasing Western protectionism.
  • China pursues the harmonization of the global order and international relations; Beijing is highly interested in BRICS as a platform for dialogue.
China is a key partner for Russia both globally and regionally:

  • China is the Eurasian Economic Union's (EAEU) major trade and investment partner
  • Officially Beijing fully supports integration processes in the EAEU.
  • The Sino-Russian partnership is mutually beneficial cooperation, it has become a stabilizing factor and a "point of reference" in the complicated and constantly changing international environment.
China is still considered to be a developing country. However, economically speaking, it is a key world player along with the United States. According to experts from the inspirational group, Beijing did not have enough political capacity some time ago, however, the situation is changing. China is seeking to alter the global order, especially the system of economic governance created by the Western states. Beijing's main option to do so is to encourage other developing countries to forge a common (decolonizing) front. It looks like an attractive initiative for everyone: developing countries could get Chinese investments along with opportunities for their domestic growth. On the other hand, China simultaneously could get a chance to promote its role as a challenger of the current international order and Western hegemony.

In addition to "Beijing's common front", we can witness the creation of countervailing power to the American protectionism, which is specified by China's idea of promoting inclusiveness through integration. Such initiatives as the Belt and Road Initiative or BEAMS+, from one side, provide real chances for developing countries around the globe to mitigate their economic underdevelopment. On the other side, both BRI and BEAMS+ strengthen China's mechanisms of enhancing its influence to confront its main political rival – the United States.

Bilateral relations between Russia and China are closely related to Eurasian cooperation taken widely. Such cooperation brings increasingly closed interaction within BRICS, SCO, EAEU, and BRI. In the case of the inspirational frame, Russian experts claim the primacy of China as a partner in the region. Hence, Moscow has opportunities to promote its national interest with Beijing's support in the international arena and vice versa. As we know Russia has been tending to confront the West, especially the U.S., at least since 2014, so it indeed needs to maintain strong political ties with the Asian member of the United Nations Security Council.

Russian anxieties

Speaking of Russian anxieties about China, narratives and sub-narratives seem to appeal to Russia's national security as follows:

BRICS is not an effective institution:

  • The BRICS members are utterly different countries. Thus, they would not be able to develop a common comprehensive strategy, neither can they become a united power center with capabilities to influence the world order.
  • It is rather unlikely that BRICS will become an alternative power in the international society, while Western countries' hegemony is likely to be preserved.
Currently, China has greater political, economic weight within the international society than other BRICS members:

  • unlike Russia, China has started to feel self-confidence and strength as a new world leader, and "does not suffer from an inferiority complex".
  • Russia produces less than 8% of the BRICS's GDP, while China produces 65%. We cannot talk about any equality and mutually beneficial cooperation under such a financial disparity.
China perceives BRICS primarily as a tool of its political influence (BRICS as China's instrumental mechanism):

  • Beijing expects to use BRICS to modify the world financial system, to make it more convenient for itself.
  • China might look at BRICS as a testing bridgehead for new ideas that will be selectively implemented in other projects.
  • By working on the BRICS Bank and the currency pool China will gain invaluable practical experience in implementing development projects, playing the role of a leader rather than a subsidiary.
China does not need any "friends", thus it will not take Russia's side:

  • Sino-Russian cooperation is not based on equality. China uses it to accomplish its own goals, but not to support Russia in its confrontation with the West.
  • Russia's dependence on China is increasing, thus it might become a Chinese "younger brother".
  • Russia remains in the "euphoria of China", while China is more oriented toward economic cooperation with the US.
Those were the key anxieties of Russian experts about China's role in BRICS. Their idea is that Moscow should be careful when dealing with Beijing. The latter has more economic power, so it may become a threat for Russia to get dependent on it.

China and Russia's ontological insecurity

Russia's narratives of China and BRICS also serve goals of what is called in contemporary International Relations Russia's not just physical, but also ontological security. The latter is defined as narratives and the sense of continuity and order in international events with respect to a state's self-identity. Our argument suggests that if the modern 'Russian self' maintains its sense of ontological security through conflictual relationships with the West, then Russian relations with the East start to play a key role to help Russia escape the feeling of complete international isolation and sustain domestic legitimacy. Then China, as a 'key player in BRICS' and the closest neighbor of Russia, can help to cement a collective Russian understanding of 'Russianness' which emphasizes traditional values and norms, all of which, as some scholars suggest, is under pressure from the West.

The narratives of Russia's inspiration with China serve to support the self-identity of the Russian state and its ontological security as a country which (despite the Western sanctions) does not remain lonely in the international arena. "Russia and China are brothers forever" claims this version of the narrative, granting Russia almost the role of the USSR with its former greatness and industrial success to be rediscovered from the past at least on the level of Russia's national imagination with the help of cooperation with China and BRICS.

Contrary to that, speaking about the anxious mood and fearful representations and narratives of China among Russian experts, we could notice that many of them seem to appeal to Russia's sense of ontological insecurity. For example, we observe fears that cooperation with China can result in diminishing the role Russia plays in the Eurasian region and world politics in general. As suggested by experts from the July 2019 issue of The Economist, the brotherhood between these two countries may truly exist, however, this partnership is much more beneficial for China than it is for Russia. Some argue that "what seemed a brilliant way for Mr. Putin to turn his back on the West and magnify Russia's influence is looking like a trap", because China will dominate almost every aspect of the two countries' cooperation. Lastly, it should be noted that Russia's 'drift to the East' and our assessment of how Russian experts view China's role in BRICS should be supplemented by more systematic research on, for example, Russian-Indian and also Russian-Brazilian relations, since they both structurally have a strong influence on how Russia imagines its future role as one of the leaders among the countries of 'Global South'.

[1] Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation, Carnegie Moscow Center, Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IFES RAS), Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Russian International Affairs Council, Valdai discussion club. We then have explored the personal narratives of China produced by the expert community of the think tanks, which include, among others, renowned scholars like Dmitry Burykh, Sergei Vasiliev, Alexandr Gabuev, Leonid Grigoryev, Igor Denisov, Raisa Epikhina, Igor Ivanov, Alexandr Isaev, Sergei Karataev, Vasily Kashin, Mikhail Korostikov, Andrey Kortunov, Kseniya Kuzmina, Yuriy Kulintsev, Sergei Luzyanin, Akexey Malashenko, Andrey Movchan, Vladimir Petrovsky, Ivan Timofeev, Mikhail Titarenko, Petr Topychkanov, Dmitry Trenin, Sergei Utkin, Sergei Uyanaev, and Ekaterina Sharova.

[2] (BIMSTEC [Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation], Eurasian Economic Union, African Union, Mercosur and Shanghai Cooperation Organization).

BRICS MFAs hold Foreign Policy Planning Consultations (МИД БРИКС проводят консультации по внешнеполитическому планированию) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: mofa, cooperation, top_level_meeting

The 5th round of the BRICS Foreign Policy Planning Dialogue with the participation of Senior Officials from respective departments of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs/International Relations of the five countries took place on 10 December 2020 via videoconferencing.

At the Meeting the parties held an extensive exchange of views on topical global issues, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the transformation of international relations, as well as negative consequences of the current crisis for regional and international stability.

The discussion revealed the similarity or convergence of the approaches of the BRICS States to a wide range of topics. The participants reaffirmed the strategic nature of the BRICS partnership along with shared willingness of the five countries to strengthen their collective role in international affairs.

The participants reiterated their commitment to creating a more just and democratic multilateral system based on the international law and the central coordinating role of the United Nations. They acknowledged the increasing contribution of the multilateral formats based on the principles of equality, cooperation and consensus (in particular, BRICS and "G20") to ensuring the efficiency of the global governance processes.

The representatives of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa exchanged best national practices and expertise in the area of the foreign policy planning.

It was agreed to pursue their pentalateral consultations on a regular basis.
Heads of the BRICS Prosecution Services discuss topical issues of cooperation (Руководители прокуратуры БРИКС обсудили актуальные вопросы сотрудничества) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, cooperation

On 16 December, Igor Krasnov, Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, chaired the IV Meeting of the BRICS Heads of Prosecution Services via videoconference.

The meeting was attended by Augusto Aura, Prosecutor General of the Federal Prosecution Service of Brazil, Aman Lekhi, Additional Solicitor General of India, Zhang Jun, Prosecutor General of the Supreme People's Prosecutor General's Office of the People's Republic of China, and Shamila Batohi, National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) of South Africa.

The Heads of the Prosecution Services discussed countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes, including for the spread of terrorist and extremist ideology, as well as issues of combating crimes in the economy and protecting the rights of entrepreneurs.

"The development of information technologies in the modern world determines the widespread in all spheres of public life. Transactions in cryptocurrency and the use of artificial intelligence are already becoming routine. However, legal regulations obviously lag behind new technologies, and, unfortunately, criminals use this in pursuit of various illegal goals – personal enrichment, discrediting individuals and government bodies, disseminating illegal information, ideas of terrorism and extremism," Igor Krasnov said.The participants also discussed the need to protect the socio-economic rights of citizens and the interests of society and the state, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to counter transnational crime in the face of new challenges and threats to the international community.

Following the meeting the participants adopted a Joint Statement that determines the main areas for further cooperation between the Prosecution Services of the BRICS countries.

After the Meeting Igor Krasnov met with Augusto Aura, Prosecutor General of the Federal Prosecution Service of Brazil. They signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between their national prosecution services.

Heads of BRICS Sanitary-Epidemiological Line Agencies discuss the latest developments with the COVID-19 pandemic (Руководители санитарно-эпидемиологических служб стран БРИКС обсуждают последние события в связи с пандемией COVID-19) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, covid-19, social_issues

On December 16, Anna Popova, Head of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing of the Russian Federation (Rospotrebnadzor) chaired the Meeting of BRICS Heads of services responsible for ensuring sanitary and epidemiological well-being via videoconference. Delegations from all the BRICS countries attended the meeting, including Antonio Barra Torres, President Director of the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa); Sujeet Kumar Singh, Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) of the Republic of India; Qinghua He, Counsel of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control of the PRC's National Health Commission, and Tsakani Furumeli, Director of the Centre for Disease Control at the National Department of Health, South Africa.

The officials discussed a range of issues on preventing and countering epidemics, including the novel coronavirus infection COVID-19. "The coronavirus pandemic has again emphasized the importance of international cooperation in countering infections. Concerted efforts and the exchange of experience are of crucial importance for the effective and well-coordinated fight against the spread of contagious diseases. The Russian BRICS Chairmanship attached special significance to the issue of ensuring sanitary-epidemiological well-being. You are aware of our initiative to create a BRICS Integrated Early Watning System for preventing mass infectious diseases risks. We hope this will be implemented," Ms Popova said in her speech.

The participants paid special attention to current global challenges related to other infectious diseases that continue to threaten sustainable development, including in the BRICS countries, and that require well-coordinated and joint efforts of the five countries.

Following the meeting, the participants approved a draft joint statement on the initiatives of the BRICS countries for developing international cooperation to prevent global infections, protectpeople from them and coordinate research on these issues.
Heads of BRICS National Statistical Offices review the outcomes of their activities in 2020 (Руководители национальных статистических управлений БРИКС подвели итоги своей деятельности в 2020 году) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting

On 14 December, Pavel Malkov, Head of the Federal Service for State Statistics (Rosstat), chaired the 12th Meeting of Heads of BRICS National Statistical Offices via videoconference.

The meeting also saw the presence of Susana Cordeiro Guerra, President of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, Shailja Sharma, Director General of India's Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Xian Zude, Deputy Commissioner of the National Bureau of Statistics of China, as well as Ashwell Jenneker, Deputy Director-General of Statistics South Africa.

The participants discussed the main areas and prospects of cooperation between BRICS National Statistical Offices amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the digitalization of statistics record and new data sources.

"The rapid development of technologies is drastically changing approaches to data collection and processing. The whole world is creating streaming tools, cloud platforms, experimental sandboxes, data hubs and universal data showcases," Rosstat Head Pavel Malkov said in his welcome remarks.

He also noted the importance of training and professional development to meet the new challenges posed by digital transformation for statistics.

"Many countries have already established training and resource centres, including those for increasing statistical literacy and for overseeing breakthrough statistical projects," Pavel Malkov said. "In October 2020, Rosstat teamed up with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the World Bank to open a similar centre in Russia. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues from China and India. We relied on their experience while creating our own centre of international statistical expertise - Tsentrostat."

The participants presented a BRICS Joint Statistical Publication, a key outcome of BRICS National Statistical Offices activities in 2020.
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
India invites Bangladesh to join BRICS Bank (Индия приглашает Бангладеш присоединиться к банку БРИКС) / India, December, 2020
Keywords: ndb, brics+

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited Bangladesh to join the New Development Bank or BRICS Bank, a multilateral institution which mobilises resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging economies, reports

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed her interest in being a part of the initiative, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Vikram Doraiswami said in Dhaka on Thursday.

Current members of the new bank are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Construction of New Development Bank HQ completed (Завершено строительство штаб-квартиры Нового банка развития) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: ndb

The New Development Bank announced on Thursday the construction of its headquarters in Shanghai's Pudong New Area has been completed.

The 30-story building, which began construction in September 2017, is the first global headquarters of an international organization located in Shanghai. The 126,000-square-meter building will be put into use next September and can accommodate about 2,000 people.

Initiated and established by the BRICS states, the New Development Bank aims to finance the infrastructure and sustainable development projects for BRICS members, emerging markets and other developing countries. The long-term goal of this multilateral organization is to support the development of regional financial institutions and facilitate global economic growth.

Officially launched in July 2015, the New Development Bank has to date approved financing projects with a combined value of $25 billion. These projects cover fields such as infrastructure, clean energy, transportation and environmental protection. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the bank has provided up to $10 billion in financial support to member states, including a $6 billion emergency loan provided to China, India, South Africa and Brazil.

NDB Board Of Directors Held 29th Meeting in Virtual Format, Approved Five Projects (Совет директоров НБР провел 29-е заседание в виртуальном формате, одобрил пять проектов) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: ndb, concluded_agreements

The Board of Directors (Board) of the New Development Bank (NDB) held its 29th Meeting in a virtual format on December 15, 2020.

At the Meeting, the Board approved five investment projects with a total commitment aggregating to approx. USD 2.7 billion.

BNDES-NDB Sustainable Infrastructure Project

The NDB Board approved a loan of USD 1.2 billion to the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) for the BNDES-NDB Sustainable Infrastructure Project. The NDB loan will support BNDES in financing sustainable infrastructure sub-projects in the public and private sectors with the scope of works focused on developing sustainable infrastructure aiming at the achievement of selected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a critical enabler of faster and inclusive economic growth, the infrastructure development of the sub-projects is expected to deliver a wide range of socio-economic benefits to Brazil. The Project will contribute to the efforts of the Government of Brazil to support socio-economic growth and development through sustainable infrastructure investments in key sectors.

Urban, Rural and Social Infrastructure Program to Achieve the SDGs

The NDB Board approved a loan of EUR 134.64 million to the Far South Regional Development Bank (Banco Regional de Desenvolvimento do Extremo Sul, BRDE) for the Urban, Rural and Social Infrastructure Program to Achieve the SDGs. The loan will be used by BRDE for on-lending to sustainable infrastructure sub-borrowers in the public and private sectors in the southern region of Brazil, comprising the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná and Santa Catarina. The Project is expected to contribute to addressing scarcity and bottlenecks of infrastructure in key sectors in the southern region of Brazil by helping to address infrastructure financing needs of sub-national governments with limited access to infrastructure financing.

Curitiba's Bus Rapid Transit Rideability Improvement Project

The NDB Board approved a loan of USD 75 million to the Municipality of Curitiba for Curitiba's Bus Rideability Improvement Project. The objective of the Project is to prioritize public transportation and discourage the use of individual transportation, thus improving socio-economic conditions through increased mobility, optimization, expansion and requalification of the public transportation infrastructure in Curitiba, the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. The loan will be used for financing the development of the East-West Corridor and the South Corridor of the Curitiba's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that incorporates the Transportation Integrated Network (RIT) in Curitiba Metropolitan Region (RMC).

South Africa National Non-toll Roads Management Program

The NDB Board approved a loan of up to USD 1 billion to the Republic of South Africa for the improvement of transport infrastructure.

MTS Cellular Network and Cloud Services Expansion Project

The NDB Board also approved a loan of USD 300 million to Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) Public Joint Stock Company for the Cellular Network and Cloud Services Expansion Project in Russia. The loan will be used to finance a part of the company's capital expenditure program aimed at the expansion of its cellular network and deployment of cloud services infrastructure in Russia. The Project will support equitable access to faster internet for the Russian population in addition to providing enterprises access to a wide range of cloud services.

In the Intersession Period, the Board of Directors also approved two COVID-19 Emergency Program Loans of USD 1 billion respectively to the Federative Republic of Brazil and the Republic of India.

COVID-19 Emergency Program Loan to Brazil for Supporting Economic Recovery

On December 7, 2020, the NDB Board approved COVID-19 Emergency Program Loan of USD 1 billion to the Federative Republic of Brazil for supporting Brazil's economic recovery from COVID-19. The Program will support the Brazilian Federal Government in its efforts to maintain jobs and income and to support economic recovery through an enhanced credit access for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). The Bank's loan will contribute to financing the Investment Guarantee Fund for the Credit Access Emergency Program (FGI-PEAC). The NDB loan, through FGI-PEAC, will improve SME's access to credit by providing guarantees to help them overcome temporary liquidity problems, ensure the continuity of operations, and strengthen financial sustainability, contributing to sustain employment rates and income to the workers.

COVID-19 Emergency Program Loan to India for Supporting Economic Recovery

On December 11, 2020, the NDB Board approved COVID-19 Emergency Program Loan of USD 1 billion to the Republic of India for supporting India's economic recovery from COVID-19. The Program will support the Government of India in its efforts to contain the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and start economic recovery. The Program will support mitigating the adverse economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and enable economic recovery in the rural areas through natural resource management works (NRM) and generation of employment opportunities for the rural poor, especially migrant workers who have returned from urban areas and have lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Agricultural productivity will be improved through the creation of NRM assets that promote water conservation, water harvesting and watershed management.

An update on the NDB's robust and dynamic project pipeline in all member countries of the Bank, project implementation and disbursement was provided to the Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors discussed matters pertaining to planning towards LIBOR transition, funding strategy, country systems and expansion of the Bank's membership.

The 17th Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee Meeting and the 13th Budget, Human Resources and Compensation Committee Meeting of the Board of Directors took place virtually on December, 14, 2020.

Background Information

The NDB was established by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, complementing the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development. According to the NDB's General Strategy, sustainable infrastructure development is at the core of the Bank's operational strategy for 2017-2021. The NDB received AA+ long-term issuer credit ratings from S&P and Fitch and AAA foreign currency long-term issuer rating from Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR) and Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA).

World of Work
Voices from BRICS (Голоса БРИКС) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, partnership

Editor's note: The BRICS Seminar on Governance and Cultural Exchange Forum 2020 took place virtually on December 3 and 4. More than 150 experts, officials and artists from China, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa participated, sharing their insights into the governance of the world, the critical role of BRICS countries and how to promote cultural exchanges among the five. This is an edited excerpt of the remarks by some participants:

Du Zhanyuan, President of the China International Publishing Group

In the Moscow Declaration released at the 12th BRICS Summit in November, innovation became a keyword. BRICS has evolved from a concept to an organization and continues to develop. The members, representing emerging forces, have put forward new perspectives on major global issues and global governance reform. The BRICS mechanism itself is a product of innovation, and we should be confident that it will continue to be a source of innovation and take on a more active role in leading the world through its many current obstacles.

Therefore, first, we should promote new ideas through innovation and get rid of stereotyped thinking. Facing increasing global challenges, we must oppose unilateralism and pursue multilateralism, reject false narratives that prioritize self-interests over others' interests and uphold the people-first concept. We must abandon the law of the jungle and follow the principle of equality and mutual respect for all. The trend of globalization has not changed, and will not change. We must actively promote its new advancement. In the global village, we should strive to build a community with a shared future for humanity.

Participants in the virtual BRICS Seminar on Governance and Cultural Exchange Forum 2020 on Dec. 3, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua] Second, we should open new areas with innovation and avoid zero-sum game. While the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted normal life and production, it has provided opportunities for extensive development and application of digital technologies such as telemedicine, online education and collaborative office. We should not fall into the trap of zero-sum game by only focusing on competition in existing fields and ignoring the broader areas in which mutual benefit and win-win results are achievable.

Third, we should explore new mechanisms through innovation and avoid the linear path. The pandemic has caused serious disorder and made people more deeply aware of the necessity and urgency of improving the global governance system and international coordination mechanisms. It is imperative to include more participants in global governance and enrich its forms, consolidate the foundation for multilateral cooperation, establish an effective mechanism to cope with global risks, and ensure that the voice of developing countries is heard.

Fourth, we should cultivate new momentum with innovation and promote economic recovery. Innovation is an important driving force for economic growth and sustainable development. Since the beginning of this year, many international organizations have predicted that in 2020, the world economy might shrink by more than 4 percent, and BRICS countries will also experience the first negative economic growth since the concept was initiated. However, the pandemic is also prompting companies to transform business models and phase out outdated production capacity, and encourage individuals to learn new skills and open new careers, thereby accumulating new momentum for economic recovery.

Victoria Panova, head of the Expert Council for the Preparation and Conduct of the Russian Chairmanship in the BRICS Association, Deputy Director of the Far Eastern Federal University, Russia

BRICS countries first started cooperation in the economy, but today their cooperation covers all areas. Their economic development is also advancing by leaps. Although some will experience a negative GDP growth this year due to COVID-19, their economic data is relatively optimistic compared with other countries worldwide. China has demonstrated economic resilience. Its GDP is expected to grow at about 2 percent in 2020. Other BRICS countries are likely to return to positive growth later. The interaction of these countries plays an important role in this regard.

We have launched the New Development Bank (NDB), which responded quickly to the pandemic by allocating more than $10 billion in supporting containment efforts in member countries. COVID-19 exposes our existing problems, but it is not the root cause. Without COVID-19, our problems would remain unseen and not have developed at accelerated pace.

Among BRICS countries, each country has its own powerful knowledge, long history, rich civilization and valuable experience. Therefore, our mutual learning could be a new impetus in the reform of the world order, and promote our development as developing countries.

Richard Levin, Special Master of Labor Tenants, Land Claims Court of South Africa

Multilateral institutions and national states and governments have been challenged by the posture of the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump pre- and post-COVID-19.

Withdrawal of U.S. funding from the World Health Organization has created tension within the global governance system, more so as the U.S. struggles to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19 domestically.

The objective conditions of global governance are undergoing a transformation. While President-elect Joe Biden has committed to return a level of dignity in terms of U.S. participation in global governance, COVID-19 has changed the world and multilateral interventions for the coming months and years. Cooperation will be critical to securing a sustainable, secure and prosperous future.

Globally and in Africa, the cry for new creativity in the development of multilateral relationships and partnerships across boundaries and sectors creates space for greater innovation and participation by the people in their interests. The focus must be on combating poverty, social inequality and unemployment through an innovative global social compact, which at minimum must prioritize social protection for the poor, free basic universal healthcare, and free primary and secondary education for all.

Ash Narain Roy, Director of the Institute of Social Sciences, India

The message from BRICS to the West is loud and clear: Reform your institutions and economies or they will do things themselves. For more than 300 years, the West made the rules and the rest of the world only played by those rules. That age has now run well past its expiration date.

BRICS must be viewed as a network of countries, not fixed alliances, or a community of nations. This network will keep the grouping flexible as a coalition of the willing. In seeking to create an inclusive, representative and transparent global governance structure, BRICS has rejected those who pretended to be both rule maker and rule keeper. It must become a bridge, not a wall.

This seminar is a good moment to reflect on where we stand and where we are heading. BRICS must protect the most vulnerable. It must heed Mahatma Gandhi's advice: "Recall the face of the poorest and weakest man you have seen and ask yourself if this step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him."

BRICS must reach a consensus on what kind of engagement it needs to promote in key emerging areas such as green transition, digital transformation and sustainable growth.

Celso Amorim, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil

In today's world, we increasingly need a platform for multilateral dialogue, particularly for developing countries and emerging economies, to make their voice heard. In such a multipolar world, the BRICS mechanism is of great strategic significance. Now that the world lies in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to develop new international orders, which should not be a repetition of the old ones and should base themselves on multilateralism. I believe BRICS countries will play a critical role in the shaping of new orders.

Among BRICS countries, political and economic cooperation is especially important, one example of which is the NDB. Meanwhile, people-to-people exchanges are also significant, and cultural exchanges are basic. When we talk about cultural exchanges, it is not only about our history, our culture and our traditions, but also about the youth of BRICS countries. We hope that there will be more conferences on important issues such as health, security, environment and climate change for more young people to participate in.

BRICS Academies of Sciences present reports on fighting COVID-19 pandemic (Академии наук БРИКС представили отчеты о борьбе с пандемией COVID-19) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, think_tank_council

On 14-15 December 2020, the 3rd Meeting of the BRICS Academies of Sciences under the theme "Academic science in the fight against COVID-19. Economic, sociological and other aspects of the post-COVID world" was held via videoconference.

The Meeting was attended by Alexander Sergeyev, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Academy Member; Yury Balega, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Academy Member; Luiz Davidovich, President of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences; Jonathan D. Jansen, President, Academy of Sciences of South Africa; J. Kurana, Vice President of the Indian National Science Academy; Zhang Yaping, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as Pavel Knyazev, Russia's BRICS Sous-Sherpa, Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Foreign Policy Planning Department.

Representatives of BRICS Academies of Science delivered scientific reports at three sessions, namely, "Epidemiology, Virology and Molecular Biology Studies of COVID-19 and Its Variants", "Mathematical and Computer Modelling of Pandemics" and "Social, Economic and Psychological effects of the Pandemic".

Each session included a report by a prominent scientist from each BRICS National Academy of Sciences, including Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research, AIDS Centre, South Africa and Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Ministerial Council, Dr Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP), Professor Tiago Pereira, University of San Paulo, and Professor Xin Li, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP), Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Russian Side was represented by Professor Natalia Pshenichnaya, Deputy Director for Clinical and Analytical Work, Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), Alexei Romanyukha, DSc (Physics and Mathematics), Deputy Director for Research, Marchuk Institute of Computational Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Timofei Nestik, Laboratory Head, Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Member of the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP), all delivered reports at themed sessions.

Following the meeting, the participants approved a draft communique of the 3rd Meeting of the BRICS Academies of Sciencesto be finalised by the Heads of the BRICS Academies of Sciences in January 2021.
Russian scholars and experts present, "BRICS: A View from Russia" five-volume book collection (Российские ученые и эксперты представляют пятитомный сборник "БРИКС: взгляд из России") / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, research

In early December 2020, an online conference was held at the major scientific fora in Russia, timed to coincide with the XII BRICS Summit and the preparation of a special publication about the countries of the group.

The collection of five books was presented on 8 December during this year's final Meeting of BRICS Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas chaired by Sergei Ryabkov,Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Russian BRICS Sherpa.

In the foreword to the collection, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that it "will be of interest to a wide range of readers and help learn a lot about the countries that are successfully cooperating within BRICS." The books contain information about the rich history and distinctive cultures of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and their achievements in literature, architecture, industry, science and sport. Considerable attention is also paid to the lives of prominent figures from the five countries – scientists, travelers, politicians and military, diplomats, entrepreneurs, teachers and inventors.

The books were written by leading scholars of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Arts, Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Higher School of Economics, led by Professor Andrei Khazin, an academician of the Russian Academy of Arts and department head at Moscow State University.
BRICS and the establishment of a global socio-cultural architecture (БРИКС и становление глобальной социокультурной архитектуры) / Greece, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, social_issues

Several reports have already appeared on aspects of cultural dimensions of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Admittedly, BRICS has broadened its scope of operations and activities, indicating its strength and the level of its development. As already known, Russia has passed on the BRICS Chairmanship to India, which officially starts January 2021. That however, Kester Kenn Klomegah from Modern Diplomacy contacted to know a few more detailed developments in the cultural directions of BRICS.

Elena Marinina, Co-Chair of the International Cultural Exchange Group of the BRICS Civil Forum, Deputy CEO of the Roscongress Foundation and Director of the Innosocium Foundation, discusses the question of cultural diversities among BRICS members, the various initiatives that were adopted during the last interactive working session, and combined efforts to pave the way forward with the Association of NGOs as part of BRICS. Here are the interview excerpts:

Q: How do you assess the importance and the results of the online roundtable discussions on "International Cultural Cooperation for Strengthening BRICS Unity" moderated from Moscow?

Marinina: A lot of serious preparatory work went into the roundtable at the BRICS Civil Forum. The International Cultural Exchange Working Group collected recommendations and initiatives from representatives of various public organizations and institutions, foundations, and socially oriented businesses of the five BRICS countries. All of these recommendations and initiatives were presented during the roundtable, given a serious and balanced assessment.

Cultural exchanges, protecting the cultural heritage of our countries, getting young people involved in the culture of BRICS countries, and developing tourism are the priority focuses that formed the basis of our draft communiqué that was presented to the heads of state at the BRICS Summit under the presidency of the Russian Federation. All the members of the working group, which included more than 30 representatives of the alliance's member states, agreed that we should join efforts to develop sustainable cultural cooperation between BRICS countries.

It is crucial that all the recommendations are very clear, whether it is the establishment of the BRICS Advanced Thinking and Research Centre or an internship programme for the different activities of young professionals, holding the annual BRICS Literature Fair, or the creation of a general register of cultural, architectural, and landscape monuments of BRICS member states with their subsequent inclusion in the World Heritage List. In other words, we not only outlined paths for further cultural cooperation between our countries, but also identified specific projects that will establish this cooperation.

Of course, we must also keep in mind that many of the projects that have been announced overlap with the competencies of other working groups, which once again demonstrates the diversity and breadth of the coverage of such a phenomenon as culture. Along with the economy, culture is the foundation on which countries build relations.

Q: In your opinion as a member of the BRICS Working Group on Culture, do you agree that there are some diversities in culture among the group? Russia, India and China are geographically close, Brazil and South Africa a bit distant – but do this present any challenges in realizing fully the expected tourism and cultural dimension of BRICS?

Marinina: The vision of man and the world is truly distinct for different nations, and sometimes even the exact opposite in some ways. If we are talking about culture, uniformity is unacceptable even within a single country. The main thing that unites the representatives of BRICS countries, though, is the desire to speak from a unified position on the global development of civil society and the establishment of a global socio-cultural architecture, and in this regard, the diversity of the cultural codes of BRICS is more of a unique advantage than a disadvantage. We understand this very well in Russia. As a multinational, multicultural, and multilingual country, Russia is always open to dialogue with other peoples. We see the same approach from our foreign partners.

We are already actively collaborating with representatives of BRICS member countries as part of the events of the Roscongress Foundation's social platform – the Innosocium Foundation. For example, we recently launched the BRICS Women's Business Alliance, whose agenda not only covers economic issues, but also cross-cultural exchange and the implementation of joint projects in creative industries and education. The upcoming Eurasian Women's Forum, which will be held in September 2021 in St. Petersburg, will feature a discussion platform on women's involvement in the creative economy. As the organizers of Russian Creativity Week, we are also looking forward to seeing creative representatives from BRICS countries at our event in Moscow in summer 2021.

As for tourism, the deterrent today is not so much the geographical position of countries as it is the closure of borders due to the pandemic. However, this is a temporary factor. The final recommendations of the International Cultural Exchange Working Group are designed for a longer horizon and contain a wide range of measures that aim to develop the tourism potential of BRICS countries. This primarily includes the BRICS Cultural Tourism project, which seeks to consider the possibility of direct communication between BRICS nations, simplify the visa procedure for citizens of BRICS countries, open guide schools, and develop tourism routes in the group's countries. We are also planning to hold the annual five-nation 'BRICS – Our Common Home' Cultural Festival, the 'Great BRICS Cities' project, various championships, and several other interesting initiatives.

One thing I am definitely certain of is that with all the differences in lifestyle, mentality, and traditions, as we travel or communicate and learn about the culture of another country, we are building a policy of intercultural relations and erecting a big BRICS house brick by brick, where common moral values will shape its foundation.

Q: Could you discuss some of the initiatives that were presented during the meeting? What initiatives presented by Russia, the Chair of BRICS 2020? What were the reactions of your colleagues from Brazil, India, China and South Africa?

Marinina:First of all, I would like to remind you that the BRICS Civil Forum itself was launched in 2015 based on an initiative put forward during the Russian presidency in order to convey the priorities of society and present civil initiatives to the leaders of the five countries. Over the past years, this format has proven to be useful and effective for cooperation between the public organizations of the association's countries.

The 2020 BRICS Civil Forum came up with public initiatives for healthcare during the pandemic as well as social equality and addressed issues concerning the environment and climate change, the development of green energy, civil rights and freedoms, in addition to the role of education and science in human development. As I already mentioned, we devoted great attention to getting young people involved in the culture of BRICS countries, developing cultural exchanges through literature and art, and protecting cultural heritage as the basis for international cooperation and tourism.

In addition, as part of the cultural focus of the BRICS Civil Forum, Russia presented a number of projects dedicated to the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II. These projects include an initiative to establish the 'World Day of War Veterans' under a UN resolution, the international project 'Libraries as Witnesses of the Great Victory' based on the materials of the national libraries and archives of BRICS countries, and the five-nation literary and historical project 'BRICS Peoples: Dedicated to War Heroes'.

All these initiatives were included in the final recommendations and not only garnered broad support from our colleagues in BRICS, but also from participants who were invited from other countries in Europe and Asia. We had a comprehensive exchange of views and engaged in fruitful and interesting work.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, we also invited the working group members to the second Russian Creativity Week Festival and Forum in Moscow in summer 2021, which the Innosocium Foundation is organizing jointly with the Russian Cultural Centre. The event was held for the first time in September 2020 and immediately received international recognition, as evidenced both by the scale of foreign participants as well as their active involvement in the event's programme.

Q: Now judging from the discussion, what could be the best way to systematize and to combine efforts in implementing all these new initiatives and recommendations arrived at the Civil BRICS 2020? In your view, how do you also see the way forward for the Association of NGOs as part of BRICS?

Marinina: The institutionalization of cultural ties is a key part of our draft communiqué. During the meetings, many Russian and international members of the working group from the five nations advocated for the creation of a 'Union (Association) of BRICS Non-Governmental Organizations' and the formation of a single network of BRICS NPOs. I am certain that this will enable us to engage in clear and properly coordinated manner, hold a constructive dialogue with the leaders of states and governments, and jointly implement the proposals and initiatives that received support at the BRICS Civil Forum. (Modern Diplomacy).

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