Deputy director of Tsinghua’s center Zhao Keji: “The Cooperation between members of BRICS is very essential”


The emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa-BRICS-have been touted as the leaders of the developing world. This organization may be the alternative of the global financial system dominated by the West. But what do these initiatives signal about members intentions? He says that the future of the multilateral framework will in large part be shaped by China’s choices and capabilities.

In this context The International Asia Today presents the views of Zhao Keji, the deputy director of Tsinghua’s center for U.S.-China relations and an expert on China’s foreign policy and diplomacy.

Zhao Keji
Deputy director of Tsinghua’s center for U.S.-China relations

What role does the BRICS group play in international affairs?

Economically, China is the largest country in the BRICS and enjoys the highest credit rating and share of global GDP, which puts it in a strong position. Indeed, as China’s economy has grown, the country has started to play a constructive leadership role in the BRICS.

The BRICS group will also play an increasingly important role in assisting developing countries in gaining an advantage in trade and climate change negotiations, as well as on issues related to the export of manufacturing products. Developing countries on the periphery of the group will be able to leverage the NDB and the CRA to increase their bargaining power. The group will maintain a low profile on security issues. But as regional powers, the BRICS nations will likely support member states’ prominent positions within each country’s area of influence.

How important is China to the BRICS group and its new initiatives?

China sees the group as a way to enhance the discursive power of developing nations within the international development infrastructure—a goal that is difficult to realize when working through the IMF and the World Bank. In addition, China hopes to find a new outlet for its foreign currency reserves, providing an alternative to its investments in U.S. government bonds. The new bank could also hasten reform of China’s own financial system, allowing the country’s commercial banks to expand their activities overseas. If China continues to deliver strong support to the group, the BRICS could be an important economic actor with significant lending power. But if China is reluctant, the group’s prospects are less bright

Will the BRICS countries deepen cooperation?

Each BRICS country has its own agenda. For instance, Russia has significant security-related interests. Meanwhile, India is looking to attract Chinese investment and reduce climate-change-related pressures. It is very difficult to achieve consensus, particularly regarding nontraditional security issues. The BRICS countries are trying to balance between these commonalities and differences. Although there is competition, strategic coordination is possible. The BRICS countries have similar interests and trajectories when it comes to economics and have proven that they can collaborate in this area.

Cooperation may also deepen through university and think tank networks. Universities in BRICS nations, for instance, want to set up programs to promote internationalization, specifically a university league among institutions in BRICS countries that will be formulated in the coming years. In addition, a new BRICS think tank that covers issues related to finance and economics is likely to be established. 

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