Developing Countries should Avoid Playing into Hands of China, Russia

One cannot realistically expect authoritarian nations like China and Russia, which trample on the international order, to contribute to the stable development of the world. Developing countries should thoughtfully consider what being on the side of China and Russia will bring them.

BRICS, a group comprising the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, held a meeting of foreign ministers in South Africa and decided to finalize guidelines for membership expansion by the time of their summit in August.

The expansion idea was proposed by China last year, and more than 20 countries in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere reportedly have expressed interest in joining the group. Thirteen nonmember countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia, were invited to the foreign ministers’ meeting.

The BRICS population totals 40% of the world’s entire population. Their share of the world’s total gross domestic product is just under 30%, approaching the Group of Seven advanced nations’ 40% share. This represents a shift in the balance of power between the United States, Europe and Japan on one side and the emerging economies on the other.

Among BRICS members, China’s national power is outstandingly large. Countries wishing to join the group may expect economic assistance from Beijing and loans from a BRICS-led financial institution.

If emerging and developing countries in the so-called Global South wish to approach BRICS out of a sense of their own national interests, they cannot be stopped from doing so.

The problem is that building an axis to counter the United States and Europe and bringing about a more multipolar world, which China and Russia have emphasized in the BRICS context, represents an international order in which the interests of China and Russia are given top priority, leading to disregard for universal values such as freedom and the rule of law.

Emerging and developing countries that are considering BRICS membership should be aware that the current international order is essential to protecting free and democratic societies and the stability of their people’s lives.

Regarding the speed and scale of the BRICS expansion, it has also been pointed out that there is a difference in perceptions between China and Russia, which desire to actively promote the expansion, and India, which is cautious on the issue.

India, which presents itself as the leader of the Global South, has adopted a neutral diplomatic stance, leaning neither toward the United States and Europe, nor toward China and Russia. While refraining from sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, India has joined the Quad security cooperation framework with Japan, the United States and Australia.

India may not want to see China increase its influence and seize the initiative through BRICS expansion. The expansion will likely become an issue with no easy solution.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida invited the leaders of India and Brazil to the G7 summit in Hiroshima City in May, confirming the strengthening of cooperation with the Global South. It is important for Japan to deepen cooperation in economic, technological and other fields, while explaining to developing countries the importance of universal values.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 9, 2023)