Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 46.2022
2022.11.20 — 2022.11.14
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
The G20 is more representative, and African Union membership would provide direct access to the world's largest players. (G20 более представительна, а членство в Африканском союзе обеспечит прямой доступ к крупнейшим игрокам мира.) / South Africa, November, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion
South Africa

Africa lacks a permanent seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council – a situation that will likely remain for a long time. Does membership of informal multilateral clubs like the G20 and BRICS offer Africa a useful alternative voice on global decisions?

In a world order shaken by Russia's war against Ukraine, Africa needs more than ever to ensure it isn't marginalised. This week at the G20 summit in Bali, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called on his peers to give the African Union (AU) a permanent seat in the club.

He noted, for example, that continued G20 support for the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative 'as a means of bringing clean power to the continent on African terms' could best be achieved with the AU as part of the G20.

South Africa is currently the only African member of the group. And Senegal's President Macky Sall, who attended the summit ex-officio as current AU chairperson, repeated his previous calls for the AU to be admitted. In September, he told the UN General Assembly that the AU should be 'granted a seat within the G20, so that Africa can, at last, be represented where decisions are taken that affect 1.4 billion Africans.'

Both Ramaphosa and Sall announced in Bali that Chinese President Xi Jinping had backed their call for AU membership. French President Emmanuel Macron also said he supported the proposal. Sall said the G20 agreed to discuss the matter at its summit next year.

Unlike other formations such as the G7 or G77+China, the G20 tries to bridge the divides

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, believes it's 'an important achievement for the AU to have won the support of its members to represent them in a forum like the G20.' Notably, the proposal is also gaining favour among other G20 members.

The G20 serves in part as a more workable proxy for the UN Security Council where Africa and others are seeking permanent representation. The G20 brings together 19 'systemically significant' countries and the European Union in an informal association to consider mainly economic issues of pressing global concern. These include debt, financial crises, health and climate change.

Of course it lacks the UN Security Council's power to enforce compliance with its decisions. But as the war in Ukraine has shown, the council is paralysed by disputes among its veto-wielding permanent members – Russia among them. That has shifted some of the Security Council's power to the UN General Assembly, but the latter is an unwieldy body.

Meanwhile, the G20's existence for 14 years at summit level shows its useful purpose as something of a global kitchen cabinet on non-security issues. Unlike other formations such as the G7 or the G77+China, which each gather countries of similar interests and dispositions, the G20's appeal is that it tries to bridge the divides. It seats the developed and at least emerging, if not developing, nations around the same table.

Africa has been indirectly, though not explicitly, represented on the G20 through South Africa's membership since the start. More recently, the G20 has regularly invited the current AU chairperson to attend its summits. But South Africa and probably many other African countries don't think this is enough.

Africa has been indirectly represented on the G20 through South Africa's membership since the start

Ramaphosa no doubt meant that Africa needed a louder voice at the table than just South Africa's. It's probably also true that South Africa is not always an appropriate representative of Africa's interests. As a hybrid country straddling the developing and developed worlds, it often has different interests.

When South Africa repeats the familiar complaint that Africa should be compensated as a victim of global warming that it has not caused, for instance, Pretoria seems to forget that the country is the world's 12 largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

And when Ramaphosa campaigned vigorously as AU chair for a waiver of global patents on COVID-19 vaccines so South Africa and the likes of India could make them more cheaply, it was debatable whether this served Africa's wider interests. The continent probably needed a faster infusion of vaccines by whatever means possible rather than a long-term manufacturing capacity.

Meanwhile the BRICS bloc may also be poised to expand, raising the question of whether it has anything to offer Africa. In much the same way as South Africa was invited to join the G20 as an unofficial representative of Africa, the founding BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, India and China – evidently also offered membership to South Africa in 2011 in part to represent its continent.

Yet BRICS doesn't carry the same weight as the G20 because it is much smaller and has so far gathered only emerging nations. All BRICS members are also G20 members, and so BRICS behaves partly like a caucus of emerging countries in the G20 – a counterpoint to the G7 which represents rich, developed nations.

However BRICS is poised to expand. In 2021 it accepted Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Uruguay as members of its New Development Bank. And at its summit in China this year, BRICS leaders decided to begin the process of broadening the membership of BRICS itself.

BRICS is in some danger of merely consolidating its identity as an emerging market caucus

Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and Indonesia are all pushing hard to join. Moscow and Tehran announced after the summit that Iran had applied to join. And when Ramaphosa visited Saudi Arabia last month, Riyadh also declared its interest.

One official from a BRICS country told ISS Today that the bloc's leaders had decided that each of the five current members should nominate a new candidate member from its region. South Africa is still mulling over who to put forward, though it seems to be a toss-up between Egypt and Nigeria. The thorny task of steering the issue of expanded membership will fall to South Africa when it assumes the BRICS chair next year.

Caution is advised though, for African countries aspiring to join BRICS. This is not the same as joining the G20. While the G20 is broadly (though not of course completely) representative, BRICS is in some danger of merely consolidating its identity as an emerging market caucus.

Worse, there were disturbing signs at the BRICS summit in China that Russian President Vladimir Putin might be trying to weaponise BRICS as a more aggressive alliance against the West. That seemed to be the context of Moscow's announcement that Tehran was keen to join. It has subsequently emerged that Iran is supplying Russia with weapons that it's using against Ukraine.

Perhaps allowing more countries in would dilute such tendencies. New members like Argentina and Mexico would help in that regard. But perhaps not. Certainly South Africa sees an expanded BRICS as boosting the club's weight as a counterpart to the West – to balance what it regards as a unipolar, Western-dominated global order.

But greater polarisation isn't what the world needs right now. Better for Africa to prioritise permanent membership of the G20 through the AU to gain a seat at the table where it can talk directly to the largest global players.

Peter Fabricius, Consultant, ISS Pretoria

Will Brazil's New President Back Russia's Dream of Multipolarity? (Поддержит ли новый президент Бразилии российскую мечту о многополярности?) / UK, November, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion

As one of the BRICS founders, Brazil's new president will oppose pitting the BRICS against the West.
Ahead of Brazil's recent presidential election, in which former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva narrowly beat the incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, the Kremlin was not too concerned about the outcome of the vote. Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Russia had established "good relationships" with both contenders, and the Russian media gleefully reported that the "Latin American giant" wouldn't join the West, whatever the outcome.

Moscow now hopes that the new socialist president—one of the BRICS founders during his previous presidency from 2003 to 2010—will work alongside Putin to create a multipolar world, and that he will strengthen Brazil's role as Russia's principal economic partner in the Western hemisphere.

The prospects of developing bilateral relations do look promising: Russia recently became Brazil's fifth largest foreign trade partner, up from eleventh just a year ago. Yet Russian hopes for closer cooperation under an anti-U.S. banner are clearly exaggerated. Brazil certainly aspires to the role of a regional leader, but doesn't believe that should necessarily entail confrontation with the West.

It's true that Lula's statements have left the West bewildered on more than one occasion. He criticized the United States and Europe for their unwillingness to enter into real negotiations with Russia or to de-escalate the situation by blocking Ukraine's path to the EU and NATO. At the same time, he has called Russia's military campaign in Ukraine a mistake. Bolsonaro's approach was broadly similar.

Both contenders also criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Lula has said his behavior during the war is "a bit weird," while Bolsonaro stated that Ukrainians "trusted a comedian with the fate of a nation."

Putin, in contrast, gets entirely different treatment. Lula met the Russian president numerous times in the 2000s during his first presidential term and has called him a "great and dear friend." Bolsonaro, meanwhile, made an extremely pro-Russian move by visiting the Kremlin on February 16, just days before Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Both the United States and even some Brazilian officials chided the Brazilian leader for making the trip, but he chose to pander to the love many Brazilians have for "tough guys" around the world.

Bolsonaro also needed the Kremlin summit to show that he was not alone following the departure from office of his key international ally Donald Trump, and to demonstrate his commitment to Brazil's economic prosperity. While in Moscow, he managed to secure agreements on greater shipments of fertilizers and diesel fuel to Brazil.

Brazil imports 85 percent of the fertilizers used in its agriculture: a key sector of the economy, and one that was particularly important for Bolsonaro, since that's where his main sponsors come from. An increase in the cost of fertilizers threatened Brazil's soy, corn, sugarcane, and cotton exports. In 2021, Russia supplied around 25 percent of the fertilizers Brazil required, and Moscow agreed at the February meeting to double its exports in the near future.

When criticized, Bolsonaro always defended himself by saying that he was making sure Brazil would continue receiving the fertilizers it desperately needs. He also took credit for securing two tankers of diesel fuel Brazil received this fall.

Despite individual cases of cooperation, disagreements between Russia and Brazil do exist. Brazil voted for the UN resolutions condemning Russia's actions in Ukraine, both in spring and in October. Many in the Bolsonaro administration opposed closer ties with Moscow, such as Vice President Hamilton Mourão, who compared Putin to Hitler this February, earning a reprimand from his boss. A lot of Brazilians—former foreign minister Ernesto Araújo among them—believe that their country should go further, and join the sanctions against Russia.

Like his predecessor, however, Lula will refrain from imposing sanctions and from harsh criticism of Moscow. Still, there is a limit to how close the countries' cooperation can be. Brazil has alternative partners: as of this year, Russia no longer accounts for such a large proportion of Brazil's fertilizer exports, while the share of Canada and the United States is growing.

Brazil is interested in Russian diesel fuel if, despite the sanctions and political risks, Russia's terms prove better than those of numerous competitors in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and India. It will never be a market for Russian crude, however: Brazil is one of the ten largest oil producers in the world and competes with Russia for the Chinese market.

Moscow also hopes to cooperate in the realm of military technology. Previously, Brazil had purchased Russian Mi-35M helicopters and expressed considerable interest in Pantsir-S1 missile systems. But there has been no real progress in negotiations on the missile systems since 2013, and the Brazilian authorities have complained about problems servicing the helicopters.

Besides, Russia can hardly count on breakthroughs in this sector, given Brazil's status as a "major non-NATO ally" of the United States, and the active role Israel and the EU states have been playing on the Brazilian market. France, for instance, has been helping Brazil to build its nuclear submarines, while Swedish planes have been used to modernize the country's air force.

Even though Brazil has not joined Western sanctions against Russia, Brazilian companies generally observe them, which makes technological cooperation all but impossible. Back in March, Brazil's aircraft producer Embraer, whose planes are flown by some Russian airlines like S7, announced that it was supporting the sanctions, and stopped providing components and services to Russia.

Of course, Brazil isn't opposed to buying some goods like diesel fuel and fertilizer from Russia and shipping more agricultural products to the Russian market, so bilateral trade—which almost doubled in annual terms in the first seven months of this year, reaching $6.2 billion—may continue to grow. Still, that's a fairly insignificant number compared to Brazil's trade volumes with other states (around $125 billion with China, for instance).

Moreover, Lula's presidency promises greater cooperation with the EU. The future president was warmly received in key EU countries a year ago, and the EU hopes for new opportunities in Brazil after the chill in relations under Bolsonaro.

As one of the BRICS founders, Lula will be working to strengthen this format, but for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons. Brazil will support the development of independent financial mechanisms like the BRICS Pay international payment system, but will oppose pitting the BRICS against the West. On the contrary, it sees BRICS as a vehicle for fostering equal partnership with the West and as a means of building bridges between developed and developing countries, which has little in common with Russia's vision of the format.

One final factor that might hinder the progress of Russian-Brazilian relations is public opinion in Brazil. Polls show that before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, 28 percent of Brazilians had a negative view of Russia, but that soared to 59 percent in May. Only 6 percent of Brazilians back Russia in this conflict, while 62 percent side with Ukraine. Any democratic leader will have to take such a substantial disparity into account.

President Xi Jinping Meets with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (Председатель Си Цзиньпин встретился с президентом ЮАР Сирилом Рамафосой) / China, November, 2022
Keywords: xi_jinping, cyril_ramaphosa

On the afternoon of 15 November local time, President Xi Jinping met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Bali.

President Xi noted that China and South Africa enjoy a special friendship of "comrades plus brothers". Both being major developing countries, China and South Africa firmly uphold international fairness and justice and the common interests of developing countries. China has all along viewed its relations with South Africa from a strategic height, and stands ready to consolidate political mutual trust and promote even greater development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and South Africa.

President Xi underscored that the central task set out at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is to build China into a great modern socialist country in all respects and to advance the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernization. China's development will bring more opportunities to South Africa and other countries. China is ready to strengthen governance experience sharing with South Africa, and supports South Africa in exploring a modernization path that meets its national conditions. The two countries will forge stronger synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, cooperate more closely on trade, investment and energy, advance the implementation of FOCAC outcomes in South Africa, support Chinese companies in investing and doing business there, and expand China's import of quality products from South Africa. China supports South Africa in taking over the BRICS rotating chairship next year, and stands ready to work with South Africa in deepening China's solidarity and cooperation with Africa. The two countries will step up coordination on international affairs, and work together on global challenges including climate change, food security and energy security.

President Ramaphosa once again extended congratulations to President Xi on his re-election as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC, on the full success of the 20th CPC National Congress, and on the remarkable progress that China has achieved in its development. He thanked China for its precious help to South Africa and other African countries on COVID-19 response and being among the first to help African countries ease the debt problem. South Africa finds in China an important strategic partner. It will continue to firmly support the one-China principle without doubt. South Africa hopes to learn from China's experience in green development and energy transition, and is ready to actively participate in the Belt and Road cooperation. South Africa will open its door and welcome Chinese companies for investment and cooperation. South Africa hopes to enhance coordination and cooperation with China under the BRICS and other multilateral frameworks.

Ding Xuexiang, Wang Yi and He Lifeng, among others, were present at the meeting.

Key change on the back of China's initiatives is the emergence of a credible alternative (Ключевым изменением на фоне инициатив Китая является появление надежной альтернативы) / China, November, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion

Editor's Note:

The 2022 G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, started on Tuesday under the main theme of "Recover Together, Recover Stronger." What should we expect from it? What role will it play amid growing uncertainties and confrontations in the world? Why is Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, increasingly becoming the center of global affairs? Yaroslav Lissovolik (Lissovolik), Program Director with the Valdai Discussion Club and member of the Russian International Affairs Council, shared his views on these matters with Global Times (GT) reporter Xia Wenxin in an e-mail interview.

GT: What are your expectations for the summit this year? How should the G20 better coordinate to deal with common problems and challenges, achieving "recover together, recover stronger"?

Lissovolik: My hope is that the focus of the G20 summit will be duly directed at addressing the vulnerabilities in the global economy associated with the risks of a global recession. The latest signals from the IMF and other international organizations as well as the macroeconomic data coming from the largest advanced economies suggests that such risks are real. Unfortunately, given the current geopolitical tensions and the divisions along the North-South axis, there are unlikely to be substantial breakthroughs in the G20 summit in improving global economic governance and international policy coordination.

That being said, there is in fact ample scope for the G20 members to improve coordination not only among themselves, but also with other countries, including small economies. Despite the emergence of various new formats with the G20 such as B20 (business 20) or Y20 (Youth 20) there is a lack of outreach formats to other countries and regions that lie outside of the G20 core. As regards the G20 countries themselves, there needs to be greater coordination in economic policy, most notably in anti-crisis policies of the world's largest economies. There also needs to be more work within the G20 dedicated to ex-ante crisis prevention through the analysis of recession risk scenarios and the possible policy responses coming though G20 policy coordination.

GT: How do you feel about the changes in China's role and influence in the G20 over the past few years? What has China's vision of global governance, as well as the initiatives put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping, such as the Global Security Initiative and the Global Development Initiative, brought to the G20?

Lissovolik: China's significance and role within the G20 has been rising in recent years in line with its growing share in the global economy and the increasing number of global initiatives such as the Global Security Initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Global Development Initiative. China has also actively pursued greater cooperation among the developing economies in the G20 as well as in other international fora such as BRICS/BRICS+. China's particular emphasis placed on openness and multilateral cooperation in the context of the Global Development Initiative as well as the BRICS+ framework has generated great enthusiasm across the Global South, with a rising number of large developing economies (some of which are members of the G20) expressing interest in joining the BRICS grouping. The impact on the G20 from these initiatives is that this international forum becomes more inclusive with respect to the needs and aspirations of developing nations.

There also appear to be second-round effects on the global economy from China's initiatives as they have triggered a response from the developed economies in the form competing projects such as Bring Back Better World (B3W) as well as the EU's Global Gateway - all these projects envision significant allocations for infrastructure development. The problem however is that they are presented at the start as competing projects rather than complements to Chinese initiatives - there is no due connectivity or co-integration of these initiatives with China's more sizeable BRI investments.

More generally, the key paradigm change that comes on the back of China's initiatives is the emergence of a credible alternative in the global economy in form of new international financial centers, new reserve currencies, new sources of growth and investment and new alternative pathways to modernization. China's own economic success in economic development and poverty reduction sets a powerful demonstration effect for the rest of the global economy on the value and the feasibility of economic modernization that accords with the country's historical legacy and future national priorities.

GT: What do you think are the obstacles to G20 solidarity? How will such divergences affect the resolution of global issues and challenges?

Lissovolik: The main obstacle to G20 solidarity is the increasing rift between developing and developed economies and this is quite similar to the patterns that were observed in other global fora such as the WTO. These disagreements and lack of due focus on the pressing economic issues at hand exact a toll on the global economy in terms of insufficient economic policy coordination, low efficiency in anti-crisis measures and high levels of protectionism. There are also global economic challenges associated with increasing risks pertaining to food and energy security. The G20 format could deliver tremendous benefits to the world economy, but only in case it is more inclusive, open and balanced with respect to the interests of developed and developing economies.

GT: Southeast Asia has become an important venue for multilateral cooperation this year, a year that you have called "the Year of ASEAN centrality." Can you elaborate on what role ASEAN has played in the G20 and the world?

Lissovolik: ASEAN is at the heart of a region of the global economy that is demonstrating some of the highest growth rates in the world. The share of ASEAN in the world economy has been accordingly increasing in the past decades, while ASEAN has also become one of the most important players in concluding economic agreements with countries and regional blocks across the globe. This in turn not only contributed to greater dynamism for the world economy, but also served to increase its openness through trade accords such as the China-ASEAN FTA or the many FTAs with countries across the globe concluded by ASEAN members individually. It is also important to note the role of ASEAN in advancing digital economic cooperation, with Singapore being one of the leaders in concluding digital economic accords (DEAs).

But perhaps most importantly ASEAN is a major success case in regional integration outside of the Western world. In this regard, it is a source of international best practice and an inspiration for developing countries and regions in the Global South. ASEAN countries have demonstrated their capability in bringing together quite different economies with varying levels of development and income - and despite these differences ASEAN economies demonstrate enviable success in working together - this is something that could be taken on board by the G20 in overcoming divisions.

This spirit of cooperation among regions and cultures is in fact precisely what Indonesia has pursued during its chairmanship in the G20, including with the launching of a new platform to promote interfaith dialogue. Indonesia is the only representative of ASEAN in G20, and in the course of this year it has actively pursued digital transformation as one of the priorities of its chairmanship - an area where ASEAN has made significant headway. Indonesia has also advanced such priority areas for this year's G20 agenda as strengthening global health architecture and energy transition - all these areas are currently among the main exigencies for the global community.

GT: You wrote in July that "given its neutrality and mediation capabilities ASEAN could lead the creation of a global platform for regional integration arrangements - something that it could pursue on the basis of an R20 (regional 20) format within the G20." How likely is it for such an organization to be formed? How would it differ from the G20? What would be the role of China in it?

Lissovolik: I do believe that ASEAN could take on a leading role in advancing its Asian success story of a regional integration project that could be replicated in other parts of the global economy. Given its success in regional integration, ASEAN could participate in the process of creating a platform for cooperation among the regional integration arrangements and their respective regional development institutions. Thus far within the current set up of global governance there is no mechanism for horizontal coordination/cooperation among regional arrangements - this is one of the most glaring cases of a vacuum in the global economic construct. There is no need in creating a separate international organization to fill this vacuum - ASEAN and other regional integration blocks where G20 countries are members could create such a platform within the G20 itself in the form of an R20 (regional 20) or an Integration 20 (I20).

The benefits from creating such a platform include greater inclusivity for G20 given that it brings far more countries into discussions and decision-making - in effect this addresses the most significant criticism of the G20, namely its exclusivity and lack of representation of the global community. Most importantly, such a platform would allow for a greater voice for developing economies, most notably from Africa. The African Union could become a full-fledged member and one of the most important participants in the "regional 20" platform, contrary to the current G20 arrangement, whereby the EU is the only regional block represented in the G20. Another argument in favour of such a platform is that it would significantly improve the anti-crisis stimuli from the G20, given that there would be scope to use the resources and the coordination capabilities of the respective regional blocks and their development institutions.

Within such a G20 platform for regional arrangements there could be a prominent place for one of the largest regional integration blocs in the global economy that brings together China, ASEAN and a number of advanced economies - namely the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). A platform for cooperation among regional integration arrangements could also be created on the basis of the BRICS+ format proposed by China back in 2017 - in this case BRICS-plus (at least one of its possible tracks) could bring together the regional integration arrangements in which BRICS countries are members.

Overall, there is tremendous scope to explore the possibilities for various formats of cooperation among regional integration blocks and their development institutions - this is one of the most significant reserves for boosting international cooperation. For China the format of cooperation among regional integration arrangements is an opportunity to lead developing countries in the creation of a new layer of global governance - a regional layer of governance that would complement the layers of global institutions (IMF/WTO/World Bank).

GT: As Europe faces various crises and finds itself increasingly difficult to maintain strategic autonomy under the influence of the US, is Asia playing a growing role in global affairs?

Lissovolik: Europe indeed appears to be among the most affected by global challenges in the past several decades - this concerns the 2008-2009 crisis, the European sovereign debt crisis and the current geopolitical crisis. On the other hand, Asia was more resilient in the face of these headwinds and is moving to the forefront of the global economy and international diplomacy. It is increasingly active in mediation efforts and conflict resolution, it has also pursued the creation of new international institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). And then there are also the new regional integration initiatives that lead to the formation of such mega-blocs as RCEP that further position Asia as the center of gravity in global trade and investment flows.

These trends suggest that the 21st century may be the Asian century after all, particularly in case the largest Asian economies such as China, India, Indonesia and other developing economies increase their economic cooperation in international fora and organizations, including within G20.
BRICS think tanks symposium held in East China (Симпозиум аналитических центров БРИКС прошел в Восточном Китае) / China, November, 2022
Keywords: think_tank_council, cooperation

XIAMEN -- The International Symposium for BRICS Think Tanks 2022 has been held in Xiamen, East China's Fujian province, highlighting efforts to promote global development and cooperation.

The symposium, held Thursday, attracted over 200 experts, government officials, and representatives of industries, international organizations and business associations both offline and online.

It focused on promoting the high-quality development of the innovation center of the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR), in order to contribute wisdom to the implementation of global development initiatives, according to the organizer.

Xiamen -- host city of the 9th BRICS Summit -- launched the BRICS PartNIR innovation center in 2020.

Irina Yarygina, research director of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research, said in a pre-recorded video that the activities held by the BRICS PartNIR innovation center further consolidated the relationship among BRICS countries, and created new opportunities in fields of multilateral cooperation, engineering services and management cooperation.

Atul Dalakoti, executive director of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said that the importance of trading and investing in each other's economies and working together for technological innovations, industrial transformation and the digital new economy, have become an impetus of growth in the BRICS countries.

"China has a world-class infrastructure which is an envy of the world. All the BRICS countries can work together in areas such as AI, big data, 5G and high-speed trains, and create physical connectivity between our nations," Dalakoti said.

At the symposium, the Xiamen-based BRICS Cardiovascular Health Innovation Center unveiled a visiting scholar recruitment program for 2023. Eight to 10 doctors from BRICS countries will serve as visiting scholars at the center next year.

Say 你好! (nǐ hǎo) to Your BRICS Partners and Friends (Скажи 你好! (nǐ hǎo) вашим партнерам и друзьям по БРИКС) / Russia, November, 2022
Keywords: quotation, cooperation

Karolina Koval, Fudan University (China), Institute of ethnology and anthropology of the Russian academy of sciences - special for infoBRICS

Interview with Emily Wang, CEO & founder of GoEast Mandarin (school of Chinese language, Shanghai) and Jaap Grolleman, marketing manager (& student) at GoEast Mandarin (

- Could you tell us how you created GoEast and what this project is now?

- Believe it or not, in 2012 when GoEast started, Mandarin education wasn't very mature as an industry (and still you could make the argument that it isn't, even in 2022). Anyway, GoEast started with the goal of making learning Mandarin more accessible and enjoyable — with the best teachers in the world. One way we do that, is really train teachers and have the whole team work together. We started offline, but the focus on teacher quality actually has carried over to online teaching perfectly. GoEast isn't a massive company, but we're a lot bigger than we started. One change in recent years is that we added courses for children also.

- Today China's position in the international arena is stronger than ever, a number of researchers call the 21st century the century of China. For many countries of the world, China is one of the main not only economic, but already a political partner. In this regard, interest in China in Russia and around the world is growing every day. What opportunities does learning Chinese open up for a person?

- There are many types of learning Chinese, with different degrees of fluency. But even learning basic conversational Chinese will be useful if you live in China or will do business with Chinese companies. We see this mostly with people who are already experienced, in their late 20s or early 30s, and they come to China to work. But now there are also more and more young people who haven't finished university yet, who learn Chinese as a way to kickstart their career. Usually these go for full fluency.

- From January to May 2022, the trade turnover between China and the BRICS countries increased by 12.1% compared to the same period last year and amounted to 196 billion dollars. The trade turnover between China and the BRICS countries is growing at a faster pace compared to other countries. This suggests that there is an increasing need to learn Chinese in the BRICS countries. Could you tell us, please, how many of your students are people from the countries of the association? Has the demand for training increased recently?

- Yes, not only the interest but also the ability to purchase courses, because learning Chinese with a live teacher still has a higher price than learning from an app. But also the amount has increased. It's interesting to see now, because we also have some students in BRICS countries that study Mandarin not to use in China but to do business with Chinese companies from their home country.

- The Chinese language in the BRICS countries is in an active phase: specialized courses are opened, and scientific conferences and symposiums are held. However, a deeper interaction has not yet been noticed. What tools need to be implemented to attract language learning?

- For the vast majority of learners, the best way to learn is still to start with the basics. For us, the HSK courses provide a good foundation. They do get increasingly formal and 'written language' as you progress, but we still think everyone should still finish HSK 4 and HSK 5 at least, before moving into specialized courses. We have special Business Chinese courses that use case studies or reports as learning materials but also Spoken Courses that focus on more spoken language sentence structures while adding vocabulary. And of course, there are vocabulary and background knowledge you need for your special industry, but this is not the biggest challenge (when looking at the journey of learning a language).

- Teaching a foreign language means developing all the time. You need to have competencies and have certain knowledge, extensive experience, read a lot and know the psychology of people. Do you exchange your experience with foreign colleagues and how would such interaction among Chinese language schools help to promote the expansion and deepening of the BRICS partnership?

- We are in touch with many Chinese education partner companies, such as Hack Chinese, Ninchanese, Skritter, and Du Chinese. And mostly we're not even competitors; each app or school has its own special purpose, for instance, Hack Chinese is a fantastic tool for learning vocabulary, while Skritter focuses on characters — and in GoEast live lessons we focus on speaking, and making sentences. We try to grow together, and actually do a lot of events or videos together.

For example, we also have a partner school in Rio de Janeiro. They sent their students to our Shanghai campus for a few weeks of immersion courses to really advance their levels. Several of these students are working afterward in the field of China-Brazil relationships.

- How does the study of languages and other cultures, in your opinion, affect society and the world as a whole?

- Of course. When you study a country and you don't learn the language, you will always rely on second-hand knowledge from books or websites. If you speak Mandarin you will realize that maybe how other people explained the situation, is slightly different or more nuanced. And whether it's for business or friendship, language is the medium of communication. It's through language that we become closer.

- BRICS is without borders, especially now that we can communicate with each other, attend various courses and conferences, cooperate and even work online. How effective is online language learning?

- There are obviously still borders but with the internet they're — in some ways — easier to cross yeah. We have been teaching online since 2016, but it has exploded since the pandemic, and even in Shanghai some students prefer to take online classes so they don't have to come to the campus. Our technology has matured as well, and we are also doing more online outside of class, such as online community and events.

To be honest, when we started online teaching we were not sure if online learning would be as effective as in person. But by the end of 2019, with 3 years of data, we found out that with our "blended learning" method, the excellent rate is almost the same for offline students, with only 1% less.

- GoEast is not only about learning Chinese, but also about making new friends. Do you think your Chinese language school could unite BRICS people even online? After all, networking is very important nowadays.

- We're actually trying to facilitate this. Not necessarily with BRICS countries only, but with anyone who is involved with GoEast or learning Mandarin. We have, for instance, a Discord server for homework questions, chit-chat, and also online events such as movie viewings. Language isn't just academic study, it only has meaning if you use it to speak or read.

- The last question for all our interviewee: what is BRICS for you and who are you in it?

- We think to us, BRICS isn't just limited to the countries of the acronym but is representative of a bigger phenomenon of emerging economies outside of Europe and North America. And of course, China is part of that as well, part of a bigger web, a web that includes Mandarin as well. It's refreshing to see the spotlight increasingly on countries other than those of the European Union or the US. We get a more diverse and fairer world for it. This plays out on big economic and political lines, as well as individual stories as well as we've already made so many friendships with people from BRICS countries. We are a provider of Mandarin language to everyone.

Soft Power with a Chinese Specificity, Or How Beijing Is Gaining Influence in BRICS (Мягкая сила с китайской спецификой, или Как Пекин набирает влияние в БРИКС) / Russia, November, 2022
Keywords: expert_opinion

Nowadays, the influence of states in the international arena is determined not only by their economic and political but also by their cultural potential. The question of alternative sources of resolution of various issues and conflicts is of particular relevance. This article will address the issue of soft power and how China exercises it, what tools it applies in relation to countries, including BRICS members.

American political scientist Joseph Nye originally proposed the concept of "soft power" in the early 1990s. Nye defined "soft power" as a form of political power that is based on "intangible" factors: cultural traits, value systems, voluntary participation, sympathy, etc. Soft power actually refers to cultural power besides economic, military and political forces, and is also an important manifestation of a country's comprehensive national strength.

Chinese leaders have emphasised the importance of soft power in their foreign policy, and since President Hu Jintao became president of the People's Republic of China, the country has actively discussed the concept. Chinese soft power is primarily shaped as "cultural power" and involves an increasing knowledge of Chinese culture and values among the masses. The Fifth Plenum of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China outlined the goal of building a culturally powerful economy by 2035, which is not only a major measure to strengthen the country's cultural "soft power", but also an important step towards realising the great dream of rejuvenating the nation.

"The core and supreme level of the country's comprehensive strength is the cultural soft power, which is linked to the cohesion of the national spirit," highlighted the President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping.

Soft power with Chinese specificity is mainly aimed at providing financial help in the economic and socio-humanitarian spheres; promoting Chinese traditional and modern culture by popularising language, literature, traditional sports, holding various cultural events and expanding educational contacts; establishing close ties with scientific and educational institutions and think tanks; working with the Chinese diaspora; and developing scientific and technical cooperation.

In different countries, the concept of soft power is implemented either through government structures or through various non-governmental organisations, foundations, etc. In China, for example, the key actors involved are those that have stable ties with the state or are directly part of the system of government agencies. Moreover, in the above institutions, there are several hundred in the PRC and abroad that are involved to varying degrees in the country's economic, cultural, sports and educational diplomacy. Consequently, the China is striving with its BRICS partners to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation and make some progress, including in cultural and humanitarian engagement.

At present, education, including the promotion of the state language, plays an important role in China's soft power strategy. The primary structure in this area is the network of Confucius Institutes, which is handled by the State Office for the Promotion of the Chinese Language Abroad - Hanban. In addition, the Chinese Ministry of Education, the China Scholarship Council and the China Education Exchange Service Centre are working extensively to attract foreign students to study in the PRC. By the end of 2018, there were six Confucius Institutes in South Africa, which is more than any other African country. In Russia, there are nineteen Confucius Institutes and four Confucius classes organised at higher education institutions and schools in Russian towns and cities. In Brazil, there are ten institutes and three Confucius classes, and in India there are four institutes organised at institutions of higher learning and two classes in the cities of Phagwara, Sonipat, Calcutta, Chennai, Coimbatore and Mumbai.

Speaking of education, as of 2019, between 60,000 and 80,000 people in Russia were studying Chinese because there is a tremendous interest in culture, history and business interaction with China. The number of students from India has increased significantly in recent years to 23,198, the vast majority of whom have chosen medicine. Consequently, this not only serves to strengthen the country's soft power strategy but also its economy. Moreover, some experts are discussing the prospect of establishing a common BRICS university, which would undoubtedly strengthen cooperation between Russia and South Africa.

The media is also one of the most important tools of Chinese soft power. The Chinese Central Television (CCTV) and the Chinese government's Xinhua News Agency are primarily active in disseminating information. PRC also has a vast overseas network and foreign media (including newspapers, periodicals, radio, television and the internet). CCTV has been operating since 1958 and now has over 40 television channels. The channel, which broadcasts in English, Korean, Russian, French, Spanish and Arabic, has a global audience of 85 million people. Xinhua News Agency is officially under the Ministry of State Security of the People's Republic of China. It has covered news around the world in Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese since 1931. In recent years, China has become more active in the African media sphere. For instance, several state-owned Chinese media have opened offices on the continent, especially in Kenya and South Africa. These include the Xinhua News Agency, China Daily, China Central Television and China Radio International.

China also promotes various events related to Chinese traditional culture. The PRC promotes, for example, oriental martial arts, music, language, national cuisine and several other events. Sports are also very important and create a positive image of the country. Understanding dissemination of Chinese culture elements by popularizing traditions of Chinese philosophy schools incorporated in particular in ancient art of Qigong - system of gymnastic and meditative breathing exercises that became popular in Russia in the last two decades - is very relevant today. This system of gymnastic, meditative and breathing exercises has become popular in Russia in the last two decades. There are several schools and directions of qigong, representing an integral system of knowledge and methods allowing to make a breakthrough into the sphere of special abilities, to study oneself, to understand the structure of the world, to realize one's own place and tasks in it. Besides, China is hosting events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and was involved in organising the BRICS Games.

Among other instruments of Chinese cultural diplomacy are traditional Chinese festivals, "Cross years, months, weeks or days" of national culture with foreign countries, activities of Chinese cultural centers abroad, tours of Chinese theatre troupes, international cooperation between libraries, museums, publishing houses, activities of traditional Chinese academies. Cross-year exchanges before the 2020 pandemic occurred with notable regularity. For example, 2006 - 2007 were the Year of Russia in China and the Year of China in Russia, 2009 was the Year of the Russian Language in China, 2010 was the Year of the Chinese Language in Russia, Years of Media Cooperation between Russia and China were announced, and finally, 2018 - 2019 are dedicated to the Years of Interregional Cooperation.

Since the instrument of soft power with Chinese characteristics is the provision of financial help in the economic and socio-humanitarian spheres, China is taking the next steps in this direction. For example, new formats of interaction with young people are being introduced. These include the BRICS Young Leaders Forum, the BRICS Global University Summit, and the BRICS Young Diplomats Forum. Speaking of humanitarian aid, that China has supported and is still supporting African countries, including South Africa, in the fight against the coronavirus. As of early September 2021, the Chinese government had delivered over 400 tons of urgently needed anti-epidemic materials to 53 African countries and the African Union, and helped 21 African countries sign procurement contracts worth over US$54 million with China. Public institutions and private companies such as Bank of China Limited, Johannesburg branch, Alibaba, the Chinese community in South Africa; telecommunication giant Huawei, Industrial Commercial Bank of China Limited, Africa Representative Office, China Construction Bank Johannesburg branch has not been spared and have also donated to the South African government in the fight against Covid-19.

The last significant source of PRC soft presence that needs to be mentioned is the Chinese diaspora. The situation in the BRICS countries is as follows. Since 2018, Brazil has officially introduced Chinese Immigration Day in order to further promote Chinese culture. There are currently about 300,000 people from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan living in Brazil, of whom approximately 200,000 have settled in the city of Sao Paulo. About 300 to 500 thousand people permanently live in Russia (predominantly in Moscow and the Far East region). In India, the Chinese diaspora here is estimated at around 6,000 people, most of whom live in Kolkata. The Republic of South Africa currently has the largest Chinese diaspora on the African continent, with estimates ranging from 350,000 to 500,000 people.

In summary, the application of soft power to regulate and promote international relations is becoming more important in the current environment. China's "soft power" shows an upward trend, which is an inevitable result of China's economic, political, social and cultural development. At present, the soft influence on the BRICS members occurs through bilateral ties, and the BRICS platform only serves as an additional and significant catalyst in promoting the interests of each nation. Even despite some difficulties caused by the pandemic and the international circumstances, there is still great potential for China's soft power to expand into the BRICS states and develop bilateral cooperation among each country.

Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
A BRICS Reserve Currency: Exploring the Pathways (Резервная валюта БРИКС: в поисках путей) / Russia, November, 2022
Keywords: economic_challenges

The new BRICS reserve currency can act in concert with the stronger role performed by BRICS national currencies to take on a greater share of the total pie of currency transactions in the world economy, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Yaroslav Lissovolik.

The issue of the creation of a BRICS reserve currency has taken on particular significance in recent months after President Putin declared that the creation of such a currency was in the process of discussion. This was followed by a series of statements coming from Russia's legislative branch on the expediency of creating a new reserve currency — most recently from the Federation Assembly speaker Valentina Matvienko. While the debate on the possibility of creating such a reserve currency is only starting in Russia and more broadly across the global economy, the implications of such a move on the part of the BRICS could have transformational consequences for the global financial system.

Initially, the proposal to create a new reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of BRICS countries was formulated by the Valdai Club back in 2018 — the idea was to create an SDR-type currency basket composed of BRICS countries' national currencies as well as potentially some of the other currencies of BRICS+ circle economies. The choice of BRICS national currencies was due to the fact that these were the among the most liquid currencies across emerging markets. The name for the new reserve currency — R5 or R5+ — was based on the first letters of the BRICS currencies all of which begin with the letter R (real, ruble, rupee, renminbi, rand).

The recent debates concerning the prospects for the creation of a new reserve currency focused more on the risks, fragilities and outright impossibility of the R5 project. Less attention has been accorded to estimating the benefits (including in terms of hard figures) to BRICS economies and EM more generally. There has also been scant attention with respect to the actual modalities of launching the BRICS reserve currency.

What is clear at this stage is that the BRICS reserve currency will not be created to replace the national reserve currencies of the BRICS economies — rather it will complement these national currencies and will serve to improve the possibilities for more EM currencies to attain reserve status. Accordingly, the attainment of high trading shares among the BRICS economies is a desirable but not altogether an indispensable condition for launching the new reserve currency. In fact, the new BRICS currency does not have to service all trade transactions among BRICS economies in the very near term. Initially, the new BRICS currency could perform the role of an accounting unit to facilitate transactions in national currencies. In the longer run, the R5 BRICS currency could start to perform the role of settlements/payments as well as the store of value/reserves for the central banks of emerging market economies.

Russian Business Explores India (Российский бизнес осваивает Индию) / Russia, November, 2022
Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion
Author: Tatiana Bokova

Tatiana Bokova, Intern of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research – special for InfoBRICS

Since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Russia, distanced from Western markets following the sanctions, has been forced to establish new economic and business contacts, and renew existing ones. Russian companies examine countries that have the conditions to operate and expand. Russia is increasingly strengthening its relations with the East and boosting contacts, including with the BRICS members. Faced with sanctions, the Middle Eastern and Indian markets look very favourable for Russia, and because of their high population size, benefit from the overall background.

In the current situation, India is the second largest market that would interest Russian companies and also to export-oriented businesses in Russia. With the establishment of bilateral business cooperation, the enterprises have opportunities to realise their potential, and Indian brands will develop and set up their branches in Russia, capable of replacing European and American companies. Both countries are currently interested in developing promising areas such as military-technical cooperation, nuclear energy and space. However, the two economies are likely to establish contacts in the areas of entrepreneurship, small and medium-sized businesses, information technology, high-tech, biotechnology, etc. Trade between Russia and India, meanwhile, has shown unprecedented growth, and bilateral trade could reach $30 billion by 2025.

Within the framework of the India-Russia Strategic Partnership, various institutionalised mechanisms are functioning to ensure regular interaction and increase the level of cooperation between the states. An annual summit is held between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation, during which the parties sign important agreements and documents covering, among others, the area of entrepreneurship and business.

The Russian side views the Indian market as a potential for development and expansion. The most important thing is to carry out a proper marketing, analyse the target group and the needs of Indian buyers and, based on these comments, offer its services or products. At present, because of orientation towards the East, entrepreneurs meet potential suppliers in large Indian cities and open specialised bank accounts in their own country for transactions in rubles and rupees.

Business cooperation with the Indian side has been conducted for many years. Major businesses of the two countries are already implementing projects in the hydrocarbon, chemical, information technology, pharmaceuticals and diamond industries in Russia and India. For example, Rosneft holds a stake in the Indian company Nayara Energy Limited, whose assets include an oil refinery, a port and a network of 5,000 petrol stations. SIBUR Holding and its Indian partners have started production of butyl rubber in India.

Also, as a successful case, is the Russian company Tsifra, which is creating a "digital mine" at the Pakri Barwadi coal mine (Jharkhand, the mine operator is Thriveni Earthmovers). The project is introducing, for instance, a load and fuel monitoring system and increasing equipment life through predictive analytics, which is simplifying some processes and improving bilateral results.

Studying the Russian business experience in the Indian market, Russia's largest coal supplier, Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK), recently opened a representative office in India and is now conducting conversations. The office will present cooperation opportunities with numerous companies in the energy and metallurgical sectors to invest in coal or power projects in India. In addition, SUEK has exported 1.25 million tonnes of coal to India, double the amount exported for the whole of 2021.

The two countries are currently engaged in over 100 joint R&D activities on promising topics, including aviation, to create a solid foundation for the future development of high-tech industries in Russia and India. Besides aviation and manufacturing, both sides join forces in the medical field and continue to counter Covid-19. For instance, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Indian biopharmaceutical company Stelis have joined forces to produce and supply at least 200 million doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

IT companies capture India

India is currently a gigantic market with great potential for the Russian IT sector. IDC research was published in April this year showing that the Indian IT services industry reached $14. 15 billion in 2021 and showed a 7.2% growth rate. India also has the second largest number of IT companies in the world and is also recognised as one of the most promising markets in the world for information technologies. Many experts have pointed out that with the start of the Ukrainian conflict, all the processes contributing to the entry of Russian companies into the Indian niche market have sped up enormously.

Initially, the first step for Russian IT companies to enter the Indian market was the signing of a partnership contract between the two largest IT associations in Russia (Russoft) and India (Nasscom), which provides for the creation of joint Russian-Indian IT enterprises for building smart cities, optimising urban transport systems, etc. In addition, the Russian Foundation and the Indian Council had earlier agreed to establish business contacts and promote software localisation projects in the markets of the two countries, as well as the participation of Russian companies in IndiaSoft.

In 2018, the two sides advanced cooperation in the field of information technology. First, twelve residents of the Skolkovo Foundation's IT cluster took part in IndiaSoft, the largest regional IT conference. According to its results, ABBYY Language Services, AlterGeo and C3D Labs intend to expand their presence in the Indian market. Second, at the first India-Russia Strategic Economic Dialogue held in St. Petersburg, India and Russia agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas such as blockchain networks and artificial intelligence.

Russian companies that supply the Indian market promise multiples of growth for their businesses, according to top executives. For the 10 Russian IT companies preparing to enter India, the local market promises at least USD 100 million. In May this year, the cloud service MoiSklad reported the programme was already available for Indian users. The company director said that the company plans to reach 300,000 customers by 2025. The service also has plans to further expand its geographical footprint in Latin America.

"Entering the new large market of India will make it possible to maintain the growth rate of MoiSklad, on the one hand, to diversify risks and, on the other hand, to enable the service, by adapting the product to new tasks, to gain even more experience and feedback for product improvement, including for users in Russia," noted the head of the service.

With the tightening of sanctions, the risks have increased both for Russian companies needing products abroad and for large global businesses that want to avoid such deals in order not to fall under the sanction's rules. In this regard, companies from Russia, including in the IT sector, are reorienting themselves to the market of Eastern states and trying to build business cooperation with such countries as China, India and others. Experts mention that Russian enterprises have splendid opportunities to gain a foothold in the Indian market while customers are loyal to local vendors and keep up demand for their products despite the situation in Russia and the global environment.

Russia and India see each other as strategic partners and attach great importance to bilateral interaction. While both countries have differences in geopolitical interests and other aspects, one should not underestimate the basis and potential for cooperation between Russia and India in the areas of military industry, politics, and economic development. In addition, we should see the mutual interaction not only through bilateral contacts but also through integration within the framework of inter-state cooperation mechanisms, such as RIC, BRICS and SCO.

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