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Graham Perry
Graham Perry
Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer.



There has been much conjecture about the significance of President Xi Jinping’s absence from the G20 Summit. European commentators get it wrong when they assert that Xi’s absence from the summit is an “own goal”.

Garima Mohan of the German Marshall Fund, a prominent European think tank has written “He was there for BRICS, which is a smaller forum, not as influential. Before they added new members, it was achieving nothing, only promises to provide alternatives, But the G20 actually has the ability to achieve these aims. It’s 90 per cent of the world’s economic output and 70 per cent of the world’s population. So for him to skip this also shows that, first of all, China’s not as interested in multipolarity as they like to proclaim, but second, they are giving up space in this extremely important platform.” European commentators get it wrong when they assert that Xi’s absence from the summit is an “own goal”.

Ms Mohan sees things as they are whereas President Xi sees things as they will become.

The structure of world politics is undergoing change and whilst the G20 is of significance in the world economy today it is BRICS which will emerge as the leading world trade body in the future. The Johannesburg Meeting last month was an important marker in the evolution of world politics and in due course will trigger fundamental change in the edifice of international relations. Xi’s attendance in Johannesburg and his absence from G20 says much about how China views the future of international political relationships.

The G20 is a mature forum of key nations and BRICS is at an early stage of its development and its influence in world affairs. But change is underway. The future lies with BRICS not with Europe and the addition to BRICS of ArgentinaEgyptEthiopiaIranSaudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – which will take effect of January 1 2024 –  is a significant pointer for the future. President Xi called on BRICS members to work together to write a new chapter of “solidarity and cooperation” among emerging markets and developing countries for development. According to President Ramaphosa, more than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, and 22 have formally asked to be admitted.

In Xi’s own words “The expansion reflects the resolution of the BRICS countries to unite and cooperate with other developing countries, meets the expectations of the international community, and serves the common interests of emerging markets and developing countries,”

BRICS will also address the widening economic gap between the North and the South, climate change and digital governance. The BRICS-founded New Development Bank (NDB), headquartered in Shanghai, has already approved 98 projects with a total value of $33.2 billion, providing a strong guarantee for infrastructure construction and sustainable development in emerging markets. 40 percent of the bank’s projects are focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

China is a key investor and trade partner in the BRICS group. China’s imports and exports with other BRICS members expanded 19.1 percent year on year to 2.38 trillion yuan (about $330.62 billion) during the January-July period, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

No question Xi Jinping and the Party have problems dealing with current economic challenges and many in the West hope that Xi will be forced to change direction and pursue a more compliant relationship with the West. Without minimising the problems in China with the heavily indebted property sector, the prediction of this Column is that the hopes of China’s critics that China will have to make a major policy change will be dashed. China has come a long way since it rightly earned the epithet in 1949 “The Sick Man of Asia”. The Party has weathered storms and gained experience. It will not follow the example of the USSR and crumble. Beijing in 2023 is not Moscow in 1991. And China’s international focus will be on BRICS not G20.


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