By Orçun Göktürk
Founded in 2009, BRICS, which was initially about cooperation in finance, development and trade, is evolving into a structure that will have major geopolitical and geostrategic consequences for the peoples of the world with the accession of new members at its latest summit in South Africa in the third week of the last month.
What was more remarkable than the accession of six new countries from three continents was the fact that more than 40 countries applied for membership. This shows us once again that the “international order” inherited from the 20th century and demarcated by imperialist hegemonism is not working and that the developing countries of the world need a new order.
The impasse of Western hegemonism
The imperialist plunderers ensured their own development at the expense of the rest of the world. But by the last quarter of the 20th century, the rise of Asian countries, China in particular, continued steadily into the 21st century. This has been accompanied by continued independence movements in Africa and Latin America, even if with some setbacks. From the second half of the last century to today, there were those who called for a “flat world” and those who proclaimed the “end of history”, those who tried to explain the new situation as a “convergence” of development between the Global South and the North… Now that almost all of them have shelved their liberal credo, it did not take them long to realize that the irreconcilable contradictions between the exploiters and the exploited persist and that the majority of the world is against them.
The BRICS summit, which was held in Johannesburg on August 22-24, came together for all oppressed nations with the aim of determining the course of the world after the US-centered liberal order. It was decided that Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ethiopia will officially become BRICS members from the beginning of next year, sending a strong message to Washington. Thus, a period has entered in which the interests of the developing countries of the world will be better brought to the world agenda and the struggle against imperialism will be strengthened.
The watchword for development: Solidarity and cooperation
China, one of the main components of BRICS, is pleased with the new members. Chinese President Xi Jinping described the 6 new member states as “the beginning of a new era for BRICS”, saying “the expansion of BRICS is historic”. Xi’s speech was read by the Chinese Minister of Commerce. Emphasizing “common development through solidarity and cooperation”, Xi also indirectly referred to the recent wave of independence in Africa against US and French colonialism when he stated that he found it meaningful to hold the BRICS Summit in Africa for the third time. The inclusion of Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and home to the African Union’s headquarters, is also noteworthy.
One of the most important parts of Xi’s speech was his reminder that “development is not monopolized by a few countries”. Immediately after this, Xi addressed the West, saying that “those who present their own rules as the international norm” are “unacceptable”.
Another hopeful development for the oppressed world was Xi’s call for actual cooperation in areas where China is leading the developing world, such as “digital economy, green development and supply chain”.
BRICS overtakes G7
It seems that BRICS will also provide new solutions to the problem of “accumulation of private and public debts”, which Russian President Putin emphasized at the beginning of his video message to the Summit. Putin also emphasized “unilateral sanctions that violate international law” and reassured confidence by talking about the economic superiority of the 5 BRICS founding countries over the US-based G7 with empirical data (the fact that Putin drew attention to can be seen in detail in Figure 1). By the way, Russia will assume the BRICS presidency next year. Russia’s slogan for the first summit of the expanded BRICS+, expected to be held in Kazan in October 2024, is expected to be “Strengthening Multilateralism for Global Development and Security Justice”.
Figure 1. G7 and BRICS in terms of purchasing power parity (1995-2023)
Building the financial infrastructure for a multi-polar order
One of the unofficial agenda items of the summit was “de-dollarization”. Although some Western experts said after the summit that this was “unsustainable”, the process of de-dollarization has already begun. Although the BRICS Summit in South Africa did not officially include a “reserve currency” agenda, there was a will to increase trade in local currencies.
In 2015, BRICS established the “New Development Bank” to counter US-dominated financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. The bank already loans in the Chinese renminbi, and after the summit it was announced that the national currencies of South Africa and Brazil would be added to this. The bank also aims to announce the first Indian rupee bond by October (note that India recently signed a trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates to trade in national currencies instead of US dollars).
Lifeline to Türkiye and the entire developing world
At a time when international developments have become almost entropic, BRICS is now on the verge of a new era in the 21st century, with 6 new developing countries. Moreover, most of the new countries are from West Asia and are energy giants. In this way, we can say that BRICS has taken an advantageous position in the geopolitical rupture in terms of pricing energy products and managing the responsibilities and vulnerabilities of countries in terms of the cost of oil. The fact that more than 40 countries have joined the membership queue shows that the developing world, uncomfortable with the liberal world order, is more firmly committed to real alternatives.
In the last 5 years, Türkiye and the developing world countries have been increasingly facing foreign exchange shortages amid major geopolitical transformations such as the pandemic and the Ukraine issue. The main problem, of course, is that these countries have been detached from their national production and their national currencies have been constantly devalued in the last 50 years within the international imperialist division of labor based on neoliberalism. The oppressed countries of the world, looking for an alternative to the Paris Club, will need more loans from the New Development Bank. But even more important is the need for a new order that does not achieve its development by plundering other countries, but by making common, equal, just, people-centered and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs the basic principle of its foreign policy. This is what BRICS offers to the world.