Xi attacks the West (without great results)

Annual meeting of the group formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The unifying purpose is the will to increase trade cooperation and promote a multipolar world. In the final statement, Putin’s proposals to weaken the role of the dollar are not mentioned. Disagreements between China and India make it difficult to strengthen the partnership between the five countries.

Beijing () – An invective against the West, accused of having a Cold War mentality and imposing illegal sanctions. In his speech yesterday at the virtual summit of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), in a rhetorical tone, Chinese President Xi Jinping endorsed the line adopted by his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin: emerging countries they must oppose US hegemony and work to create a multipolar world.

The BRICS have been meeting regularly since 2009. Together, they represent 41% of the world’s population, 24% of global GDP and 16% of international trade. In their dialogue, however, they have never gone beyond promises of greater trade cooperation.

Yesterday’s meeting does not seem to have achieved concrete results either. The final joint declaration is vague, especially on a central issue like the Russian invasion of Ukraine. China did not condemn Moscow’s attack and in official statements blames NATO “expansionism” for the crisis. Summit participants avoided mentioning the words “conflict” and “war”, referring to the “situation in Ukraine” – a courtesy to Putin, who speaks of a “special military operation”. They only added that they support the UN’s humanitarian efforts for the affected population.

The document is silent on two points raised by Putin to free Russia from financial dependence on the West. On the eve of the summit, the Kremlin chief had said that the BRICS partners were working on a new reserve currency to oppose the dollar and on an alternative international payments system to Swift, controlled by Washington.

The only real point of unity among the BRICS members is the desire to give emerging countries a greater voice in global multilateral institutions. China and India are buying more oil from Russia, affected by Western sanctions. Behind the measure, however, there is an economic opportunity (reduced prices) and certainly not support for Putin’s territorial goals.

The relevance of the BRICS format is also affected by the difficult relationship between China and India, which for two years have once again clashed in the Himalayas over border issues. Xi’s attacks on NATO stem from fears of seeing the birth of an Asian twin to the US-led Atlantic Alliance. For example, Beijing watches with concern all the movements of the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), which Xi considers the embryo of an “Asian NATO” that includes India, as well as the United States, Japan and Australia.

Sino-Indian tensions are also reflected on the commercial front. China has proposed a free trade agreement among the BRICS countries, indicating that trade is still low. The project has little chance of success precisely because of Delhi’s positions on the matter. It should be remembered that in November 2020 the Indian government refused to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Association, the China-dominated multilateral trade pact signed by the 10 ASEAN countries, plus Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

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