BRICS leaders meet in South Africa as bloc weighs expansion


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Leaders of the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – converged on Johannesburg on Tuesday for a summit where they will weigh expanding the bloc as some members push to forge it into a counterweight to the West.

Heightened global tensions provoked by the Ukraine war and a growing rivalry between China and the United States have added urgency to a drive to strengthen the bloc, which has at times suffered from internal divisions and a lack of coherent vision.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted China’s Xi Jinping, the leading proponent of enlarging BRICS, for a state visit on Tuesday morning ahead of meetings with the grouping’s other leaders later in the day.

Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also attending the Aug. 22 to 24 summit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, wanted under an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, will not travel to South Africa and instead join virtually.

“An expanded BRICS will represent a diverse group of nations with different political systems that share a common desire to have a more balanced global order,” South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said in an address ahead of the meetings.

Boosting the use of member states’ local currencies is also on the agenda. South African summit organisers, however, say there will be no discussions of a BRICS currency, an idea floated by Brazil earlier this year as an alternative to dollar-dependence.


BRICS remains a disparate group, ranging from China, the world’s second biggest economy now grappling with a slowdown, to South Africa, this year’s host and an economic minnow facing a power crisis that’s led to daily blackouts.

India has increasingly reached out to the West, as has Brazil under its new leader, while Russia is being hammered by Western sanctions over it war in Ukraine.

Two members – India and China – have periodically clashed along their disputed border, adding to the challenge of decision-making in a group that relies on consensus.

Expansion has long been a goal of China, which hopes that broader membership will lend clout to a grouping already home to some 40% of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP.

The leaders will hold a mini-retreat and dinner on Tuesday evening where they are likely to discuss a framework and criteria for admitting new countries.

But expansion has become a point of contention.

Russia is keen to bring in new members to counter its diplomatic isolation over its invasion of Ukraine. South Africa has also voiced support.

India, which is wary of Chinese dominance and has warned against rushing expansion, has “positive intent and an open mind”, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Monday. Brazil, meanwhile, is concerned that expanding BRICS will dilute its influence.

While a potential BRICS enlargement remains up in the air, the bloc’s pledge to become a champion of the developing “Global South” and offer an alternative to a world order dominated by wealthy Western nations is already finding resonance.

Over 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, say South African officials. Of them, nearly two dozen have formally asked to be admitted, with some expected to send delegations to Johannesburg.

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