Five things to watch out for at the BRICS nations summit in China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 10:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 5:49pm

China and India’s leaders will meet this weekend at a BRICS nation summit days after the two nations ended a military standoff in a border area high in the Himalayas.

The BRICS countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa – are a grouping of the some of the world’s major emerging economies, which account for about 23 per cent of the world’s economy and 43 per cent of its population.

Leaders of the nations will converge on the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen for the bloc’s ninth summit between Sunday and Tuesday. Here are some of the big issues to look out for.

1. Will the border row affect Sino-Indian relations?

In the aftermath of near three-month stand-off between Chinese and Indian troops on the Doklam plateau, all eyes will be on President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to see if the dispute has impaired their ability to work together and forge new agreements.

Indian Prime Minister Modi will visit China to attend BRICS summit, following end of tense border stand-off

Before troops from both sides withdrew from the disputed area of the border, there was even talk that Modi would skip the BRICS summit. He is coming and the event will allow the two leaders’ first face-to-face discussions since the border dispute broke out in June.

2. Can the summit help revitalise economic growth among its members?

The BRICS nations have experienced economic slowdowns in recent years. Brazil is dealing with economic depression and political divisions amid corruptions scandals, South Africa faces a recession and bids to oust its prime mister and Russia has suffered under sanctions and weak oil prices. China, meanwhile is managing an economic slowdown while preparing for a major reshuffle among its leadership.

The BRICS grouping’s primary aim is to ensure that more nations have a say in the institutions that govern global trade and the economy, according to Luiz Pinto, joint fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre and Qatar University.

Even with Modi back on board, China will find it hard to keep emerging markets club together

The summit may showcase new financial cooperation agreements and economic projects. It may also bolster BRICS’ proposals intended to counter the influence of Western-dominated institutions, such as the World Bank.

3. Will China and BRICS nations take on a greater role as world leaders?

The group may partly fill the vacuum left by the United States as President Donald Trump pursues policies leaning towards economic isolationism. Moves to increase BRICS nations’ leadership role will probably be largely driven by China, according to analysts. This is partly because its economy is massively larger than some other members, such as South Africa and Russia.

BRICS could be placed “in a more formidable position to bolster their collective leadership position”, political economist Simon Freemantle wrote in a Standard Bank report.

4. Will BRICS nations continue to pursue sustainable development projects and goals?

The group’s New Development Bank approved US$1.4 billion in loans for four sustainable development projects in China, India, and Russia ahead of the summit. The bank has so far approved US$4 billion in loans for infrastructure and similar development projects and is expected to approve billions more in the following few years, according to analysts.

Are the BRICS cracking?

With the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, BRICS may also demonstrate its climate commitments at the summit, Freemantle wrote in his report .

5. Are more countries likely to join the group?

The leaders of five other developing nations will attend the summit – Tajikistan, Egypt, Mexico, Guinea and Thailand. China has for months advocated a “BRICS Plus” approach to potentially expand the bloc’s influence with more member countries.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said Beijing wants to broaden the discussion to include non-BRICS countries, to meet “the common aspirations of emerging markets and developing countries”.

More countries taking part in the summit could signal the inclusion of additional BRICS members, which would “inestimably bolster the importance, representativeness and clout of the grouping”, according to Freemantle