The Curtain Falls, But Exchange Goes On
“A man of wisdom adapts to changes; a man of knowledge acts according to circumstances,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 13th BRICS Summit via video link, quoting a proverb, on September 9, 2021.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc around the world,” he continued, pondering how BRICE countries would adapt to the changes of the times. “The road to global recovery remains bumpy and tortuous; the international order is going through profound and complex changes.”
President Xi proposed several solutions in a speech titled “Advance BRICS Cooperation to Meet Common Challenges Together” and highlighted the importance of China’s future hosting of the BRICS seminar on governance as part of strengthening people-to-people exchange in the spirit of mutual learning.
In early November, the BRICS Seminar on Governance 2021 kicked off as dialogue, discussion, and deliberation were needed most. Themed “Building Consensus and Confidence for BRICS Cooperation with a Shared Future,” the two-day seminar wrapped up in Beijing on November 3, 2021. More than 150 representatives from the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa engaged in exchange either in person or through video link.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Xu Lin, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and minister of the State Council Information Office of China, delivered a keynote speech outlining China’s experience in governance highlighting the people-centered principle, recounting the country’s reform and opening-up practice, and tracing the independent path of modernization that has culminated in building a community with a shared future for humanity.
“The past 15 years since the founding of the BRICS mechanism has demonstrated the value of exchange of governance experience because what started as a simple investment concept has evolved into a robust example of international coordination and cooperation featuring mutual benefits and win-win results,” Xu said. “We should keep this momentum going forward.”
Next year, China will take over the rotating presidency of BRICS from India. Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong expressed appreciation for India’s contributions and shared his expectations for China’s coming role in organizing the 14th BRICS Summit and safeguarding world peace and development with new efforts when addressing the opening ceremony of the seminar via video link.
“Victory is ensured when people pool their strength, and success is secured when people put their heads together,” Sun added, quoting a Chinese proverb. “The BRICS countries sticking together, strengthening strategic communication, promoting mutual political trust, and deepening practical cooperation will foster an even brighter BRICS.”
Ash Narain Roy, director of the Institute of Social Sciences of India, also called on the BRICS countries to foster global solidarity through polycentric governance in his speech at the opening ceremony of the seminar via video link. “BRICS can’t afford to be ship in the harbor,” he said. “A ship in the harbor is safe, but this is not what a ship is built for.”
Specifically, according to Roy, the BRICS countries must reject trickle-down economics and the “horse and sparrow” theory. “If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrow?” he questioned. “A new study by David Hope of London School of Economics and Julian Limberg of King’s College, London proved that tax cuts for the rich only widen inequality without any significant effect on jobs or growth. Instead, it’s necessary to switch from linear to circular economy, a freer, fairer and more productive system.”
“BRICS thunder is good,” Roy added. “But as Mark Twain said, ‘lightning does the work.’ The enormity of the task before BRICS requires bigger ideas, strategies, and tactics. No more nibbling around the edges—it is time to seize the moment.”
People-to-people and cultural exchanges also contribute to the three pillars of intra-BRICS cooperation in politics, security, and economics. Du Zhanyuan, president of China International Communications Group (CICG), in his speech at the opening ceremony of the seminar outlined CICG’s contributions through publications like Xi Jinping: The Governance of China in languages of BRICS countries as well as the launch of the Global Young Leaders Dialogue in December 2020 by the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies (ACCWS), CICG, and the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), a Chinese non-governmental think tank.
The release of the BRICS Seminar on Governance and Cultural Exchange Forum 2020, compiled by ACCWS and distributed by Blossom Press, accompanied a signing ceremony for the BRICS Governance Joint Research and Knowledge Sharing Initiative during the opening ceremony of the seminar, both of which have greatly enhanced exchange on governance and culture among the BRICS countries.
Diplomats, experts, and scholars from the BRICS countries were also invited to participate in the plenary session of the seminar and three parallel forums respectively titled “Strengthening BRICS Mechanism for Firmer Consensus on Multilateralism,” “Improving People’s Wellbeing and Promoting Common Development and Prosperity for All Countries,” and “Upholding Common Values for More Solid and Stable BRICS Cooperation.” Here are some standout lines:
“The BRICS countries have chosen partnership over alliance and mutual respect and progress over ideological prejudice.”
—Vladislav Fronin, editor-in-chief of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, on the nature of the BRICS countries
“In South Africa we say ‘Batho Pele’ meaning ‘people first.’ As BRICS, we need to ensure that our programs are responsive and beneficial to the needs of our people and that they are informed by the enduring principles of accountability, transparency, and people involvement, among others. Another concept in South Africa is that of ‘Ubuntu’ meaning ‘humanity’ and often translated as ‘I am because we are.’ Ubuntu speaks to the fact that you can’t exist in isolation and thus speaks to our interconnectedness as nations and people of the world.”
—Busani Ngcaweni, principal of the National School of Government in South Africa, on the people-centered values of BRICS
“In the past six years, Brazil has greatly benefited from the New Development Bank (NDB). The latest example is that its National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) announced on October 4, 2021 it would take a lending of 500 million U.S. dollars from the NDB to create projects focused on sustainability.”
—Sergio Guerra, dean of the Rio de Janeiro Law School of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), Brazil, on BRICS’ capacity to promote concrete initiatives for the socioeconomic development of the populations involved
“This seminar materialized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposals at the 13th BRICS Summit and represents an achievement in enhanced opening up and exchange as well as of integration of BRICS countries,” concluded Gao Anming at the opening ceremony of the seminar on November 2, 2021.
The BRICS Seminar on Governance 2021 was organized by ACCWS and CICG with the assistance of several other institutions including the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, the Chinese Embassy in India, and the Institute of Social Sciences of India. Other participants included Wang Linggui, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Jiang Xiaojuan, dean and professor of the School of Public Policy and Management at Tsinghua University, Zhou Qiangwu, vice president and chief administration officer of the NDB, and many more.