Shortly after President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the BRICS Johannesburg Summit, U.S. scholars shared their thoughts on Xi's proposals with Beijing Review reporter Yu Shujun. Edited excerpts of their comments follow:
William Jones, Washington bureau chief of the Executive Intelligence Review news magazine
Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg gave a clear indication of the direction in which the organization is moving, in what he predicts will be the second "golden decade" for the five-country organization. While the issue of industrialization and infrastructure has been on the BRICS agenda since its inception, President Xi is now stressing the necessity of innovation in development as BRICS moves forward.
Encompassing the most important developing countries and representing the interests of the developing world generally, President Xi has indicated that this will not simply be a traditional step-by-step industrialization, but one which will be based on the platform of the information age revolution. And it will be focused on building, in the developing economies, an innovation-centered development policy, implementing the achievements of the new industrial revolution.
The summit occurred at a time of great tension and uncertainty, as the U.S. imposes major tariffs on several countries, including China. The support given by BRICS to the current system of trade regulation and cooperation provides an important counterweight to the attempt by other countries to move toward a "beggar-thy-neighbor" policy in the hope for quick results. [This is an economic policy that benefits the country that adopts it but harms that country's neighbors or trading partners.] A firm stand could also play a role in convincing others that working within the present structures--and reforming them if need be--is far better than trying to undermine them by unilateral actions. President Xi also stressed the importance of BRICS solidarity for maintaining a secure and safe world.
President Xi once again focused on the important "dialogue of cultures" element in BRICS collaboration. The notion of "the common destiny of mankind" is based fundamentally on the unity which is the universality of human culture, albeit expressed in different languages and different forms of expression. The five BRICS countries, with their rich and varied culture, have all played a part in creating that ethos, comprising the many different colors of a beautiful rainbow. Showcasing this, as President Xi said, is an important element in the mutual understanding that lies at the heart of the BRICS relationship.
And again, President Xi has raised the important question of BRICS Plus, which involves expanding the spectrum of BRICS activities to new areas, as well as the inclusion of new countries in the BRICS partnership. BRICS has already become the chief representative of the interests of the developing world, now encompassing the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the next obvious step would be bringing in new members in order to strengthen the influence and the reach of this important international organization.
Jon Taylor, Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of St. Thomas in Houston and a professor of political science
I believe that it is a real mistake that most Western media outlets appear to have largely ignored the 2018 BRICS Summit. Their mistake is further compounded given the current global trade environment created by U.S. President Trump's counterproductive tariffs, which are negatively impacting not only China, but all of the BRICS members. One would have hoped for more interest on the part of the West not only with President Xi's speech, but with BRICS in general and China specifically. After all, it is China that has taken the lead in attempting to expand the economic benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative, expanding its investment partnerships with African nations, and providing essential leadership among the BRICS for south-south cooperation, economic globalization, and global governance.
Had Western media observers been watching or listening, they would have noted that President Xi's speech reiterated his call for a shared prosperous future--something missing from much of Trump's rhetoric. This will be achieved by pursing a win-win approach that will engage in deeper economic cooperation among BRICS by building a Partnership on the New Industrial Revolution, safeguarding global peace and security through a commitment to multilateralism and global governance and expanding people-to-people exchanges among the BRICS. By doing this it will enhance cultural, educational, health, sports, and tourism ties, and develop closer BRICS cohesion and cooperation--which may very well include the creation of a BRICS Plus mechanism in addition to cooperation with other global governance entities.
(Reporting from New York)
Copyedited by Francisco Little
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