BRICS Cooperation: Prospects for Collaborative Momentum
Lan Qingxin
Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa. /CFP
Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa. /CFP

Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa. /CFP

Editor's note: Lan Qingxin is a professor at the Institute of National Open Economy, University of International Business and Economics, and director of the BRICS Research Center. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. It has been translated from Chinese and edited for brevity and clarity.

Over the past decade, the BRICS cooperation mechanism has evolved from its inception, growing in scale and transitioning from having two drivers – politics and economics – to having three drivers – politics, economics, and culture. This evolution has positioned BRICS as a vital force in propelling global economic growth, enhancing global governance, and upholding the multilateral system. Looking ahead, BRICS countries should further consolidate consensus, build synergies, and deepen practical cooperation in economic partnerships, green economy, cultural exchange, and energy security.

BRICS Cooperation

BRICS countries have consistently strengthened and refined their intergovernmental cooperation mechanisms, centered around summits, supported by ministerial meetings, and supplemented by workshops, forums, and other platforms. Leveraging their respective comparative advantages, BRICS countries have gradually expanded their collaborative efforts across various sectors such as trade, education, technology, culture, and security.

Advancements in Cooperation Mechanisms

Formulation of the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy 2025: This strategy emphasizes cooperation in key areas such as trade, investment, finance, digital economy, and sustainable development. It supports multilateral trade systems, trade and investment facilitation, digital economy, supply chain connectivity, innovation, technology, and the development of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises.

Establishment of the New Industrial Revolution Partnership: BRICS countries have reached consensus on prioritizing technological innovation as a major driver of economic growth and shaping future competitiveness. The creation of innovation bases within this partnership provides a platform for enhancing global supply chain collaboration and guiding practical cooperation.

Role of the New Development Bank: China has established a 500 million yuan fund for BRICS Economic and Technological Cooperation and Exchange. The New Development Bank has allocated over $10 billion in special funds for pandemic response and various emergency reserve projects, showcasing its active role.

Enrichment of Mechanism Cooperation Frameworks: Several cooperation mechanisms have been established, including the Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology, and Innovation, the High Officials Meeting on Science, Technology, and Innovation, the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, the China-India Strategic Economic Dialogue, and the China-Eurasian Economic Union Cooperation Joint Commission. These mechanisms not only promote globalization but also provide institutional support for enhanced trade and economic cooperation.

Breakthroughs in Security Cooperation

Deepening Energy Security Cooperation: Multiple energy cooperation agreements have been signed during summit and prime ministerial meetings, such as the "Joint Statement on Further Deepening the China-Brazil Comprehensive Strategic Partnership" and the "Joint Statement on the Future Development Vision of China-India Strategic Cooperative Partnership." These agreements promote bilateral energy mechanisms and exploration of new energy industries.

Progress Towards Cybersecurity Unity: BRICS nations have embraced a more inclusive concept of cyberspace governance, shifting from initial declarations that scarcely mentioned involvement of other stakeholders to a greater emphasis on involving "relevant stakeholders based on their respective roles and responsibilities." The expansion of agenda and discourse in BRICS discussions reflects a growing focus on rules, community involvement, and resource management in cybersecurity.

Continuous Counterterrorism Collaboration: The signing of the BRICS Counterterrorism Strategy and the Strategic Action Plan for Combating Terrorism demonstrates the commitment to global counterterrorism efforts, setting a positive example for political and security cooperation among BRICS countries.

Ongoing Progress in Cultural Exchange

Institutionalization of Cultural Exchange: Although cultural exchange started later compared to political, economic, and security cooperation, BRICS has established three high-level intercultural exchange mechanisms under the summit framework.

Diversification of Participation: At the macro policy level, the five governments take the lead in formulating strategies, while at the implementation level, local governments, social organizations, universities, and think tanks play more active roles, leading to a diversified structure combining top-down and bottom-up initiatives.

Expanding Project Domains: Collaborative efforts encompass education, culture, sports, and more. Mechanisms like the Ministerial Meeting on Education and the Ministerial Meeting on Culture have been established. Organizations such as the BRICS Art Museum Alliance, Youth and Children's Theatre Alliance, Museum Alliance, and Library Alliance foster cooperation in film, animation, fashion, cultural heritage, and beyond.

Prospects for Collaborative Momentum in BRICS Cooperation

In the critical phase of the "Second Golden Decade," BRICS countries should capitalize on the advantages of the BRICS mechanism, innovate partnership relationships, identify key areas for economic cooperation, and deepen collaboration in public health, post-pandemic recovery, green economy, cultural exchange, and energy security. This injection of new momentum will enhance the significance of the BRICS mechanism.

Advancing the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy

Prioritize Strengthening Cooperation and Integration of Interests: Focusing on mutual development, BRICS nations should seek new points of cooperation and economic growth, enhance bonds of mutual interest, reduce strategic doubts through dialogues, increase mutual trust, and lower deficit risks. For instance, China can leverage its financial and market advantages to actively promote domestic infrastructure development in the other four countries and encourage Brazil and South Africa to play a larger role in regional integration. Enhance coordination among BRICS countries in global economic governance, utilize summit and ministerial meetings, speak in unison on major international issues, and accelerate post-pandemic recovery through win-win cooperation. Establish new mechanisms and initiatives, such as the BRICS Globalization and Global Governance Forum, to jointly discuss and formulate positions on the reform of international organizations like the WTO, enhancing integration and cohesion of BRICS interests. Promote the signing of regional economic cooperation agreements among BRICS countries, establish local economic and trade cooperation demonstration zones, expand imports and investments from BRICS nations, facilitate financial cooperation, establish a special fund for BRICS cooperation, deepen collaboration in various sectors, increase economic integration among countries, and share China's development achievements with BRICS partners.

Deepen the New Industrial Revolution Partnership: Considering the unique national circumstances and shared aspirations of BRICS nations, explore innovative paths for mutual market access and explore new models for economic and trade cooperation. Accelerate the construction of innovation bases within the New Industrial Revolution Partnership, establish investment and financing platforms for innovation funds, and build networks for industrial cooperation to support green projects. Set up a cross-border e-commerce and trade public service platform for BRICS nations.

Deepen Digital Economy Cooperation: Accelerate cooperation in enterprise digital transformation, strengthen global supply chain and value chain collaboration, establish electronic port networks, promote cross-border e-commerce in trade, and implement pilot projects for consumer protection in e-commerce. Tap into the potential of new-generation information technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, and 5G.

Promote Collaborative Innovation in Science and Technology: Enhance industry-academia-research collaboration, broaden the scope of technological cooperation, focus on key generic technology research, establish joint laboratories and innovative technology cooperation zones. Create a digital technology community, establish a digital technology standards system, and build a dual-cycle development for digital economy. Strengthen cooperation in intellectual property, technology regulations, standards, metrology, and qualification assessment, constructing an integrated market.

Expand the "BRICS+" Cooperation Model: Implement cross-border investment and financing pilot projects, explore financial cooperation such as a BRICS bond market and currency swaps, establish an international settlement center for BRICS nations. Improve the emergency loan mechanism of the New Development Bank, continue to support expansion efforts, and aim for early entry of new members within the year.

Enhance Macroeconomic Policy Coordination: Strengthen the supply of public goods and policy coordination cooperation, implement and refine the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy 2025, and work towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Establish expedited personnel exchange channels and green lanes for cargo transportation to ensure smooth operations of supply chains and industrial chains, creating conditions for economic recovery.

Fostering a Green Economic Growth Engine

Amid renewed global focus on climate change, carbon reduction has become a top priority for nations, and all BRICS countries are striving for carbon neutrality. By expanding cooperation in the green and low-carbon sectors, BRICS countries can establish new benchmarks for sustainable development, supporting their respective carbon peak and carbon neutral roadmaps.

Enhance Clean Energy Cooperation Mechanisms: Utilize existing channels and multilateral mechanisms for cooperation, strengthen information exchange and standards alignment among BRICS countries, and focus on clean energy as a central area for cooperation, building practical and feasible mechanisms.

Participate Actively in Green Energy Projects: Plan strategically based on national conditions, implement energy project cooperation, and establish rigorous carbon emission standards and policies. The New Development Bank should provide financing and support for green energy projects based on the renewable energy resources of each BRICS nation.

Address Carbon Tariff Barriers Together: To counter the threats and pressures posed by developed countries' carbon tariff policies, BRICS countries should unite and engage in environmental diplomacy, oppose linking climate change with trade issues, uphold the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," participate actively in international environmental conventions and discussions on carbon emission standards, engage in dialogues with the EU and other developed countries regarding carbon tariff calculation systems, mechanisms, transparency, and WTO rules, striving to become rule-makers and participants. Advocate joint international carbon reduction action, strengthen unity among developing countries, and support preferential treatment for the least developed and climate-vulnerable nations. Propose a fair allocation of emission reductions between producer and consumer nations, advocating new carbon reduction responsibility standards based on per capita carbon consumption and historical cumulative emissions to counter developed countries' carbon tariff policies.

Expanding Comprehensive Cultural Exchange Cooperation

With an open and inclusive approach, address shortcomings in cultural exchange, and usher in a new era of BRICS cultural exchange.

Government Leadership and Social Engagement: Maintain the BRICS leaders' summit mechanism and regular institutionalized interactions among leaders. While maintaining central government leadership, build a three-dimensional network that involves government initiatives, think tanks, universities, and society at large. Leverage the strengths of various participating entities to ensure smooth progress and mutual support in humanistic exchanges.

Strengthen International Media Communication: Collaborate among BRICS nations' media organizations to counterbalance the dominant narratives driven by Western countries. Establish the BRICS News Agency to promote modern media technology development and humanistic exchange, present a unified BRICS voice, and improve the current monopolized narrative landscape.

Embrace Differences while Seeking Common Ground: Given the weaker foundation of humanistic exchange cooperation, balance the relationships among politics, economics, and culture, and allocate resources appropriately towards cultural domains. Embrace diversity while maintaining an open and inclusive attitude, address commonalities and differences effectively, and showcase representative case studies to construct a cultural BRICS. Collaborate to tell the BRICS story, gradually accumulate BRICS consensus, and foster a shared BRICS cultural ideology, contributing more humanistic public goods to the international community. Cultural and educational cooperation should take into account existing regional cooperation characteristics, adapt to new humanistic relationships, and focus on future developments in education.

Strengthen Mechanism Construction for Cultural Exchange: Design top-level institutional systems, establish phased and long-term goals, define implementation content and methods, and establish a feasible quality assurance system, including coordination management, risk assessment, and tracking monitoring. Facilitate cooperation between responsible departments, preventing project stagnation due to communication breakdown.

Comprehensive Advancement of Energy Cooperation

In 2022, China will assume the BRICS rotating presidency, with energy cooperation remaining a focal point for all BRICS countries.

Establish an Energy Industry Emergency Communication Mechanism: Strengthen emergency communication and dialogue, exchange oil and gas price information, manage trading changes and adjustments, and enhance crisis response capabilities through energy price fluctuations, commodity exchange, and China's, India's, and South Africa's capacity to maintain energy reserves.

Promote Transformation and Upgrading of Energy Structure: Achieving low-carbon development is a shared consensus among BRICS nations. Capitalize on each country's strengths and advanced renewable energy technologies, with China leveraging its complete renewable energy industry chain. Collaborate with BRICS nations on clean energy projects.

Expand Areas of Energy Enterprise Cooperation: Broaden the scope, channels, and modes of energy enterprise cooperation in sectors such as oil and gas, environmental protection, infrastructure construction, and new energy. Foster mutual learning.

Foster Energy Technology Exchange: BRICS countries possess strong complementarities in production factors such as technology. Utilize comparative advantages to conduct energy technology cooperation and information exchange, facilitating digital and intelligent development in the energy sector and promoting green and low-carbon development. Improve coordination mechanisms for emission reduction, construct a fair and open cooperative platform, promote the circulation of emission reduction funds and technology sharing, and achieve joint emission reduction through multiple approaches and channels to accelerate the integration of emission management efforts among BRICS countries.

Establish a Long-Term Mechanism for Coordinating Positions on International Stages: Utilize high-level exchanges for political guidance, strengthen communication and coordination in international organizations, conferences, and forums, and further enhance comprehensive cooperation on consensus issues in the energy sector.

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