On September 29, the Valdai Club, together with the CITIC Foundation for Reform and Development Studies of China, held an expert discussion, titled “Main Directions and Prospects for the Expansion of the BRICS and SCO”.
Discussion moderator Andrey Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Valdai Club, stressed that discussions on the expansion of the BRICS and SCO have recently gained more intensity. China’s presidency of the BRICS provided dynamism to the development of this format, and a number of countries have applied to join the group, or announced such plans. In turn, at the SCO summit in Samarkand, Iran joined the organisation, while Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia received the status of dialogue partners. In this regard, the moderator raised the question of the convergence of the two formats and the formation of a single platform.
Yaroslav Lissovolik, Programme director of the Valdai Discussion Club, noted the importance of the BRICS+ format. “Against the backdrop of the successful steps that China has taken to develop the BRICS, it probably makes sense to talk about more ambitious tasks for the long term,” he said, naming the creation of a free trade area for the entire Global South based on BRICS+ as one such task. He added that in order to develop the interface between the SCO and BRICS or BRICS+, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation must move towards a more economic orientation. According to Lissovolik, a possible step could be the creation of the SCO Development Bank or even several institutions with such tasks.
Wang Xiangxuei, Deputy Secretary General of the CITIC Foundation for Reform and Development Studies of China, said that Russia and China have high hopes for the development of the BRICS and BRICS+ formats. BRICS, according to him, brings together regional and sub-regional powers; large and fast-growing players who are not comfortable in a monocentric global system dominated by the United States. “We cannot develop in this system and must unite to develop,” he said. He added that BRICS+ accounts for more than half of the world’s population, and these people should benefit from globalisation, which should become polycentric. Speaking about the SCO, he stressed that although it was originally created to ensure security, it is not a traditional Western-style alliance, but rather a common security community aimed at repelling global challenges. And since development and security are closely interrelated, this means the need for the simultaneous future development of both formats.
Kirill Babaev, Acting Director of the Institute of China and Modern Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Dean of the Faculty of International Economic Relations of the Financial University Under the Government of the Russian Federation, believes that both the SCO and BRICS reflect the hope of some of the world’s states to create a system of inclusive and mutually beneficial cooperation, free of pressure from Western structures, both in security and economics. At the same time, in his opinion, while the level of integration in both structures is too low, their expansion demonstrates that many countries continue to hope for the emergence of real parallel development models. He believes that now, thanks to the geopolitical situation, the SCO and BRICS could become a hub for the formation of new structures that will provide the world with its next cycle of stable, secure and peaceful development, but it is important not to miss this historic chance.
Wang Xiaoquan, Executive Director of the Center for Strategic Cooperation between China and Russia at the CITIC Foundation, pointed out that we are entering the era of the revival of continental powers, the platform for which is the SCO. He stressed that the SCO countries are mainly continental powers. He listed four aspects of this revival: technological development in the transport and information sphere, expansion of cooperation between continental powers, acceleration of the process of Eurasian integration through the SCO and grounded in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, and the creation of a world international system focused on multilateralism and inclusiveness. “The countries of Eurasia recognise the concept of mutually beneficial cooperation and the joint inclusive concept of security. This is in stark contrast to the American approach and vision,” he added. “The time of a new continental power is a new time for the development of our planet.”
Ekaterina Arapova, Director, Senior Research Fellow, Sanctions Policy Expertise Center, Institute of International Studies, MGIMO University, noted that within the new BRICS+ format, it is important to focus on common global challenges. Among these challenges, she named three main points: the crisis of global institutions, including economic and financial ones, in the global economic context (that is, the approaching global economic crisis, and the intensification of pro-American and US-promoted multilateral cooperation formats). She considers financial direction to be especially important, since de-dollarization looks like a hot topic for many countries. According to Arapova, it is also necessary to pay attention to the issues of food security, to cooperation in the field of healthcare and to the joint development of clean energy, which is likely to become a key area again in the medium and long-term.
Pavel Knyazev, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sous-Sherpa of Russia to the BRICS, pointed out the great interest of emerging economies and developing countries in BRICS and the SCO as platforms based on equal and inclusive cooperation without the imposition of certain models and confrontation. Describing the situation in the BRICS, he said that about a dozen states have shown an interest in joining the group — officially or unofficially — and now the guidelines for expanding the association are being worked out. In addition, within the framework of BRICS, internal mechanisms of interaction and for cooperation with third countries (BRICS+) are being strengthened.