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Expansion can help keep BRICS abreast of the times

Recently, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia explicitly expressed their desire to join the BRICS family, signaling that the consensus reached on BRICS membership expansion at the 14th BRICS Summit in June is turning into concrete actions. A new round of membership expansion has officially become part of the BRICS cooperation agenda.

There has been some questioning and criticism over the BRICS cooperation mechanism since its inception. However, alongside solid and sustained progress, BRICS cooperation has produced fruitful outcomes. Over the past few years, a number of countries have expressed their desire to join the BRICS cooperation mechanism. Therefore, membership expansion is in line with the trend of the times and an inevitable choice for deeper and more tangible BRICS cooperation.

The membership bids have demonstrated the growing international influence of the BRICS nations.

All emerging markets with enormous development potential, BRICS countries are playing an important role in international and regional affairs. Since the launch of the BRICS cooperation mechanism 16 years ago, despite various sorts of shocks and challenges, the economic strength of BRICS countries has been continuously increasing. According to International Monetary Fund data, from 2006 to 2021, their combined share of global GDP, based on market exchange rates, increased from 11.9 percent to 25.2 percent; and in term of purchasing power parity, their share increased from 22.2 percent to 31.6 percent, exceeding the G7's share since 2020. Despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BRICS countries have demonstrated strong economic resilience, with BRICS economic and trade cooperation forging ahead against the headwinds and constantly injecting fresh impetus into the global economic recovery.

The membership expansion also has showcased the increasing appeal of the BRICS cooperation mechanism.

The BRICS partnership, holding dear to the principle of equal cooperation, treats all members as equals regardless of their size and comprehensive national strength. For instance, the voting power and shares of the New Development Bank are equally distributed among the BRICS members.

In the meantime, BRICS countries prioritize pragmatic cooperation, from which all parties can gain concrete benefits. In cooperation with outside countries, BRICS members practice true multilateralism, carry out international cooperation and forge partnership according to the purposes and principles enshrined in the UN Charter, firmly oppose all forms of hegemony, unilateralism and protectionism, and vigorously defend the legitimate rights and interests of developing nations. The concepts and actions of BRICS cooperation have been widely acclaimed by the developing world; and therefore, the BRICS cooperation mechanism carries the expectations of the emerging markets and developing countries for a more active role in global governance.

The BRICS mechanism is an open, international cooperation platform that has been constantly developing and growing. Although the membership expansion is an inevitable choice for further development, expansion itself is not the purpose. Expansion should serve the long-term development of BRICS cooperation and play a greater role in boosting BRICS cooperation and South-South cooperation at large. To steadily press ahead with BRICS cooperation, the membership expansion should uphold the three following principles.

To start with, a step-by-step approach should be adopted.

The five member countries have been cooperating with each other for over 10 years, embracing the BRICS spirit of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation, deeply participating in existing mechanisms and action plans, and accumulating rich experience in exchanges and coordination at all levels and in all fields. It will take time for new and current members to effectively coordinate with each other and integrate their respective resources. Therefore, the expansion should be step-by-step process, giving preference to countries that recognize the BRICS spirit and have the aspiration and capabilities to advance BRICS cooperation.

Second, the status of countries should be borne in mind.

Current BRICS members are all major emerging markets and developing countries. As a platform for advancing South-South cooperation, the BRICS cooperation mechanism is aimed at boosting extensive cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries. This is the basic positioning and distinctive feature of BRICS cooperation. Hence, the membership expansion should be in accordance with the positioning of BRICS cooperation and be conducive to consolidating and expanding cooperation among the emerging market economies and developing countries. Currently, the BRICS mechanism should maintain such positioning and its formal membership should only be available to emerging markets and developing countries.

Third, the principle of balanced development should be upheld.

Current BRICS members are from different regions, with vastly different resource endowments and distinctive economic and social systems. They are important representatives of emerging markets and developing countries. Membership diversity has not only showcased the representativeness of BRICS cooperation, but also laid a solid foundation for members to draw on each other's strengths to the largest extent, injecting vigor into BRICS cooperation.

When assessing potential new members, the BRICS mechanism should take into account the appeals of countries from different regions, and with different resource endowments. This would better amplify the effects of BRICS cooperation and catalyze larger-scale cooperation with a relatively smaller number of members.

The author is Secretary General of China Society of Emerging Economies, a research fellow with the Institute of World Economics and Politics and the National Institute for Global Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

Contact the editor at editor@chinawatch.cn