China is still trying to breathe life into BRICS as a political club, even though the emerging market bloc is unlikely to survive as an investment concept. President Xi Jinping has called on BRICS nations to “play a bigger role in international affairs and governance” while addressing an informal meeting of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa on the sidelines of the G20 summit in eastern China’s Hangzhou on Sunday. “The BRICS countries are leaders among the emerging-market countries as well as developing countries, and are also important members of the G20,” Xi was quoted as saying on Sunday by China Radio International. Will China be lonely in G20 as BRICS bloc diverges? “We should also promote all the emerging-market countries and developing countries to play a bigger role in international affairs and governance,” he said. The five BRICS nations should also work to “oppose all kinds of protectionism and exclusionism” and to safeguard multilateral trade system, Xi said. He also called for efforts by members of the emerging-market bloc to drive the BRICS New Development Bank to implement the first batch of projects and boost the bank’s management level and financing capabilities, reported Xinhua. The bank should promote the capabilities of macro research into the contingent reserve arrangement in order to enhance financial security for BRICS countries, he said. The BRIC acronym was coined in 2001 by Jim O’Neill, then an economist with Goldman Sachs, and quickly became popular with investors and politicians as a symbol of shifting global economic gravity from rich countries to emerging ones. South Africa was invited to join later. But the concept lost its market relevance as the economic performance among the members diverged – China and India stayed in the fast lane while Brazil, Russia and South Africa encountered economic stagnation and recession. On top of that, the man who coined the phrase is now a commercial secretary to the British Treasury, while Goldman Sachs walked away from its BRIC fund last year after a decade trying to turn a catchy phrase into a viable investment theme. BRICS economies hit a wall as China stamps authority on group Nevertheless, political leaders of the five countries are not giving up: Beijing in particular regards BRICS as a club that can counter the power of rich countries like the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Italy. “A developing country like China alone is unable to change the long-existing international governance structure, unless it joins forces with other developing countries to challenge the West-dominated institutions,” said Professor Oliver Rui, from the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. China’s persistence on the bloc, even though its economy is bigger than the four other members combined, reflects Beijing’s strategic positioning as a bellwether for developing countries instead of a new member in the rich club. Vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao said on Friday that China would continue to “improve the voice and representative power of developing countries” in the international economic arena. The BRICS countries share few political, economic, social and even foreign policy interests except for shared unhappiness about the domination of global governance by the West. According to He Fan, a former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and now an economist at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, the BRIC idea was created with “great imagination and huge ignorance of history”. BRICS New Development Bank to explore ‘expanded financing channels’ Among the four core members, China was “an old tree with new branches”, Russia a giant that “swallowed a shrinking potion”, India “an inert element in sudden chemical reactions”, and Brazil “always in adolescent and never grown up”, he wrote, echoing late French leader Charles de Gaulle’s quip that Brazil “is the country of the future ... and always will be”. However, the group can still boast some achievements, among them the New Development Bank based in Shanghai, and greater voting power in the International Monetary Fund. The group had also sought common ground on global issues from climate change to the Syria crisis, said Li Lifan, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Shanghai-based BRICS bank set to raise 3 billion yuan from green bond issuance In Hangzhou, Xi is expected to reach agreements first – with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South African President Jacob Zuma, and new Brazilian President Michel Temer who was sworn in on Wednesday after Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment – on the G20 agenda and warm up for the group’s 8th annual summit in Goa, India, next month. A report from the BRICS Economic Think Tank at Tsinghua University in Beijing said China should focus on building connections and influence in developing countries to eventually “have a bigger say and push the West to step back on international rule making”. Economic headwinds could potentially bind the group closer, said Zhu Jiejin, an international relations expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. “BRICS is a test of a China’s new philosophy in international relations – although the fruit will take a long time to ripen,” Zhu said.