BRICS Information Centre
Prospects for the BRICS Xiamen Summit
Alissa Wang, BRICS and G20 Research Groups
August 28, 2017
Recent headlines about the upcoming BRICS summit taking place on September 3-5, 2017, in Xiamen, China, have been dominated by the tense political atmosphere between the group's two biggest players: China and India. Political tensions have been building up in the past months between China and India due to border disputes and, most recently, the deployment of military personnel in Dokalam. A critical turning point came on August 28 when the Chinese foreign ministry announced that India had withdrawn its troops in the disputed territory. Meanwhile, an Indian statement claimed that there was an agreement for "expeditious disengagement" by both sides. Despite minor inconsistencies in the language used by the two sides, the content and timing of this announcement are significant. Coming just a few days before the Xiamen Summit, the withdrawal of troops signals the willingness of the two biggest players of the BRICS to overcome geopolitical disagreements for broader strategic cooperation. This sets an optimistic tone for the summit.
One of the most significant issues likely to be discussed at Xiamen is the possibility of a "BRICS Plus" institutional mechanism. This possibility was hinted at by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi earlier in the year, when he said that this new mechanism "would be a network of congenial alliances which would not only represent major developing countries but also improve their footing in globalization." This more expansive and global reach is signalled by China's selection of its five leaders invited to attend this year's summit, which include Guinea, Mexico, Thailand and Tajikistan. The possibility of BRICS expansion, increased South-South cooperation and a more representative institutional mechanism covering on a global scale the voices of developing countries and emerging economies, will likely be an important spotlight at this summit. China will also likely discuss its Belt and Road initiative, which was a focus of China's strategic agenda in recent years and this past year in particular, with the Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing in May. Under the broader theme of building broader partnerships, as China laid out in its priorities early on, the Xiamen Summit can be expected to become a platform on which China will push to expand the BRICS group while rallying for support for its Belt and Road initiative, both of which require a strong coalition of developing and emerging countries. Progress on this issue could lead to long-term institutional changes of great significance for the BRICS and for the developing world as a whole.
In addition to the possible institutional expansion, the Xiamen Summit will likely push further on the issues of trade and climate change –— the two most divisive issues at the most recent G20 summit in July in Hamburg, Germany. Although G20 members were divided with their statements on trade protectionism and ratifying the Paris Agreement on climate change, the BRICS leaders met informally on the sidelines and issued their own statement, which voiced strong opposition to protectionism, support for a "rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system," in addition to calling "upon the international community to jointly work towards implementation of the Paris Agreement." China has thus mobilized its hosting of the BRICS to strengthen its growing G20 leadership. Political changes in the United States and uncertainties in Europe have created divisive new challenges for the world's advanced economies, yet the BRICS has showed that, on the contrary, it is able and willing to overcome geopolitical divisions for mutual gain and cooperation. This thus raises hopes for the Xiamen Summit to make significant progress in pushing the BRICS to take on a more active and expansive leadership role in matters of global economic governance and beyond.
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Alissa Wang is the chair of summit studies for the BRICS Research Group, and a research assistant at the G7 and G8 Research Group, the G20 Research Group, and the Global Health Diplomacy Program, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She is pursuing an undergraduate degree with a specialist in international relations, a major in global health and a minor in political science. She is an editor for the reports produced by the G20 Research Group summit studies team, an analyst for the G7 Research Group summit studies team, and works on compliance research. Alissa is interested in Chinese history and politics as well as China's role in global governance. She was a member of the field team at the G7 Elmau Summit in Germany in 2015, the G7 Ise Shima Summit in Japan in 2016 and the G20 Hangzhou Summit in China in 2016.
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