Addressing Common Concerns Through Cooperation
By Hu Biliang  ·  2021-11-24  ·   Source: NO.47 NOVEMBER 25, 2021

Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward a Global Development Initiative when addressing the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly via video link on September 21. The initiative is to promote global economic recovery, as well as more balanced, greener and inclusive development, and to expedite the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The initiative calls for fostering global development partnerships, with priority given to cooperation on poverty alleviation, food security, COVID-19 response and vaccines, development financing, and climate change, among other areas. 

This initiative is particularly significant for BRICS countries, as their ability to take the lead in executing it can contribute a lot to driving the full-fledged development of their respective regions. Meanwhile, the newly proposed points echo the major concerns of BRICS countries.

Major issues the initiative touches upon are all global headaches, which can't be tackled by any country alone, consequently requiring close international cooperation. The BRICS cooperative mechanism has been in place for 15 years, effectively boosting economic growth and laying a solid foundation for enhanced cooperation.

The BRICS countries are all big powers in their own regions, facing similar difficulties at roughly the same stages of development. It's vital for them to learn from one another. For the time being, their closer cooperation needs to focus on tackling the following challenges.

Economic growth has slowed down or even contracted. In 2020, the real growth rate of China's GDP stood at 2.3 percent, while the GDP of Russia, Brazil, South Africa and India shrunk respectively by 3.1 percent, 4.1 percent, 7 percent and 8 percent. Accordingly, BRICS countries need to strengthen cooperation in investment, trade and production capacity building to bring their respective advantages into full play and accelerate their economic recovery.

The current food security situation of BRICS countries poses a big concern. Of the five nations, only Russia performs well in this regard, with a per-capita grain output of roughly 1,000 kg; that of Brazil is slightly over 500 kg and that of China stands at 450 kg, just above the red line of 400 kg. The picture in South Africa and India appears even gloomier, with the former's at a little over 300 kg and the latter's at 200 kg plus. Against this backdrop, the BRICS nations must put food security as a priority from now on.

There are mounting pressures on energy supply, complicated by the demand to cut carbon emissions. With the exception of Russia and South Africa, the other three face energy shortages. Russia's production of fossil fuels exceeds consumption by some 700 million tons of oil equivalents, while South Africa has a basic balance between production and consumption, and Brazil's consumption outsizes production by a small amount. Yet in India and China, there is respectively a shortfall of 350 million and 650 million tons of oil equivalent. Meanwhile, both China and India rely heavily on coal, subsequently subject to huge pressures to cut carbon emission.

Poverty relief work, too, is encountering new challenges. The pandemic has hurled more than 100 million people back into poverty, with the agony felt across India, Brazil and South Africa.

Worldwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines poses yet another formidable task. Currently, South Africa and Brazil still struggle to secure sufficient vaccines, and India, due to its large population, also finds itself in a bind.

All the above-mentioned problems facing BRICS countries were included by President Xi in the Global Development Initiative and are to be solved through international collaboration. For these countries to get out of the woods and onto a road of rapid and healthy development, they must try their utmost to perform well on their own while at the same time ramp up international cooperation. Their 15-year-long interactions prove that mutual trust and teamwork can help keep their heads above water whilst crossing an ocean of trials and tribulations.

The author is the executive dean and a professor of the Belt and Road School, Beijing Normal University 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com 


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