China and the BRICS

In 2001, Jim O’Neil, an economist at Goldman Sachs, coined the acronym BRIC. BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China — four large and fast-growing developing countries that epitomise the shift in global economic power away from the developed countries that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. The concept appealed to leaders of the four countries, and on 16 May 2008, their heads of state held a summit meeting in Russia. In 2010, the group invited South Africa to join, and South African president Jacob Zuma attended the first BRICS summit (now with an ‘S’) in China in April 2011.

The fifth BRICS summit took place on 26–27 March 2013 in South Africa. China’s new president Xi Jinping attended the meeting as part of his first overseas trip as head of state. He stopped in Moscow and Dar es Salaam before arriving in South Africa and visited the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) on his way back to China.

The theme of the fifth BRICS summit was ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation’. This was the first time that the annual BRICS meeting took place in Africa, and it completed a full cycle of each of the five member countries having hosted a summit meeting. The event in Durban was also significant for the tentative steps taken towards creating BRICS institutions, including the creation of a BRICS Development Bank, an idea upon which the five leaders agreed ‘in principle’, although there is no consensus yet on how such a bank would be funded or operate.

Other initiatives discussed at the Durban summit included:

  • a Contingent Reserve Agreement to pool foreign reserves to insulate members against global financial crises, with China contributing $41 billion, Brazil, India and Russia $18 billion each and South Africa $5 billion
  • a Multilateral Agreement on Co-operation and Co-financing for Sustainable Development between the development/export–import banks of each member country
  • a Multilateral Agreement on Infrastructure Co-financing for Africa and another on Green Economy Co-financing.

Following the pattern of previous BRICS summits, the leaders’ meeting in Durban discussed a wide range of subjects but initiated few, if any, concrete measures. Nevertheless, the first ‘African summit’ was notable for its focus on how the BRICS nations can support African industrialisation.

BRIC/BRICS summits:
2009: Yekaterinburg, Russia (no theme)
2010: Brasilia, Brazil (no theme)
2011: Sanya, China: Broad Vision and Shared Prosperity
2012: Delhi, India: BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Security and Prosperity
2013: Durban, South Africa: BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation
The next summit is scheduled to take place in Brazil in 2014.

The leaders of the BRICS countries. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The leaders of the BRICS countries.
Source: Wikimedia Commons