Goodbye G20, hello BRICS+
By Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at the Cradle.
The redeeming quality of a tense G20 held in Bali – otherwise managed by laudable Indonesian graciousness – was to sharply define which way the geopolitical winds are blowing.
That was encapsulated in the Summit’s two highlights: the much anticipated China-US presidential meeting – representing the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century – and the final G20 statement.
The 3-hour, 30-minute-long face-to-face meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden – requested by the White House – took place at the Chinese delegation’s residence in Bali, and not at the G20 venue at the luxury Apurva Kempinski in Nusa Dua.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs concisely outlined what really mattered. Specifically, Xi told Biden that Taiwan independence is simply out of the question. Xi also expressed hope that NATO, the EU, and the US will engage in “comprehensive dialogue” with Russia. Instead of confrontation, the Chinese president chose to highlight the layers of common interest and cooperation.
Biden, according to the Chinese, made several points. The US does not seek a New Cold War; does not support “Taiwan independence;” does not support “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan”; does not seek “decoupling” from China; and does not want to contain Beijing.
However, the recent record shows Xi has few reasons to take Biden at face value.
The final G20 statement was an even fuzzier matter: the result of arduous compromise.
As much as the G20 is self-described as “the premier forum for global economic cooperation,” engaged to “address the world’s major economic challenges,” the G7 inside the G20 in Bali had the summit de facto hijacked by war. “War” gets almost double the number of mentions in the statement compared to “food” after all.
The collective west, including the Japanese vassal state, was bent on including the war in Ukraine and its “economic impacts” – especially the food and energy crisis – in the statement. Yet without offering even a shade of context, related to NATO expansion. What mattered was to blame Russia – for everything.
The Global South effect
It was up to this year’s G20 host Indonesia – and the next host, India – to exercise trademark Asian politeness and consensus building. Jakarta and New Delhi worked extremely hard to find wording that would be acceptable to both Moscow and Beijing. Call it the Global South effect.
Still, China wanted changes in the wording. This was opposed by western states, while Russia did not review the last-minute wording because Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had already departed.
On point 3 out of 52, the statement “expresses its deepest regret over the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands the complete and unconditional withdrawal of armed forces from the territory of Ukraine.”
“Russian aggression” is the standard NATO mantra – not shared by virtually the whole Global South.
The statement draws a direct correlation between the war and a non-contextualized “aggravation of pressing problems in the global economy – slowing economic growth, rising inflation, disruption of supply chains, worsening energy, and food security, increased risks to financial stability.”
As for this passage, it could not be more self-evident: “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.”
This is ironic given that NATO and its public relations department, the EU, “represented” by the unelected eurocrats of the European Commission, don’t do “diplomacy and dialogue.”
Fixated with war
Instead the US, which controls NATO, has been weaponizing Ukraine, since March, by a whopping $91.3 billion, including the latest presidential request, this month, of $37.7 billion. That happens to be 33 percent more than Russia’s total (italics mine) military spending for 2022.
Extra evidence of the Bali Summit being hijacked by “war” was provided by the emergency meeting, called by the US, to debate what ended up being a Ukrainian S-300 missile falling on a Polish farm, and not the start of WWIII like some tabloids hysterically suggested.
Tellingly, there was absolutely no one from the Global South in the meeting – the sole Asian nation being the Japanese vassal, part of the G7.
Compounding the picture, we had the sinister Davos master Klaus Schwab once again impersonating a Bond villain at the B20 business forum, selling his Great Reset agenda of “rebuilding the world” through pandemics, famines, climate change, cyber attacks, and – of course – wars.
As if this was not ominous enough, Davos and its World Economic Forum are now ordering Africa – completely excluded from the G20 – to pay $2.8 trillion to “meet its obligations” under the Paris Agreement to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.
The demise of the G20 as we know it
The serious fracture between Global North and Global South, so evident in Bali, had already been suggested in Phnom Penh, as Cambodia hosted the East Asia Summit this past weekend.
The 10 members of ASEAN had made it very clear they remain unwilling to follow the US and the G7 in their collective demonization of Russia and in many aspects China.
The Southeast Asians are also not exactly excited by the US-concocted IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework), which will be irrelevant in terms of slowing down China’s extensive trade and connectivity across Southeast Asia.
And it gets worse. The self-described “leader of the free world” is shunning the extremely important APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Bangkok at the end of this week.
For very sensitive and sophisticated Asian cultures, this is seen as an affront. APEC, established way back in 1990s to promote trade across the Pacific Rim, is about serious Asia-Pacific business, not Americanized “Indo-Pacific” militarization.
The snub follows Biden’s latest blunder when he erroneously addressed Cambodia’s Hun Sen as “prime minister of Colombia” at the summit in Phnom Penh.
Lining up to join BRICS
It is safe to say that the G20 may have plunged into an irretrievable path toward irrelevancy. Even before the current Southeast Asian summit wave – in Phnom Penh, Bali and Bangkok – Lavrov had already signaled what comes next when he noted that “over a dozen countries” have applied to join BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).
Iran, Argentina, and Algeria have formally applied: Iran, alongside Russia, India, and China, is already part of the Eurasian Quad that really matters.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Afghanistan are extremely interested in becoming members. Indonesia just applied, in Bali. And then there’s the next wave: Kazakhstan, UAE, Thailand (possibly applying this weekend in Bangkok), Nigeria, Senegal, and Nicaragua.
It’s crucial to note that all of the above sent their Finance Ministers to a BRICS Expansion dialogue in May. A short but serious appraisal of the candidates reveals an astonishing unity in diversity.
Lavrov himself noted that it will take time for the current five BRICS to analyze the immense geopolitical and geoeconomic implications of expanding to the point of virtually reaching the size of the G20 – and without the collective west.
What unites the candidates above all is the possession of massive natural resources: oil and gas, precious metals, rare earths, rare minerals, coal, solar power, timber, agricultural land, fisheries, and fresh water. That’s the imperative when it comes to designing a new resource-based reserve currency to bypass the US dollar.
Let’s assume that it may take up to 2025 to have this new BRICS+ configuration up and running. That would represent roughly 45 percent of confirmed global oil reserves and over 60 percent of confirmed global gas reserves (and that will balloon if gas republic Turkmenistan later joins the group).
The combined GDP – in today’s figures – would be roughly $29.35 trillion; much larger than the US ($23 trillion) and at least double the EU ($14.5 trillion, and falling).
As it stands, BRICS account for 40 percent of the global population and 25 percent of GDP. BRICS+ would congregate 4.257 billion people: over 50 percent of the total global population as it stands.
BRI embraces BRICS+
BRICS+ will be striving towards interconnection with a maze of institutions: the most important are the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), itself featuring a list of players itching to become full members; strategic OPEC+, de facto led by Russia and Saudi Arabia; and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s overarching trade and foreign policy framework for the 21st century. It is worth pointing out that early all crucial Asian players have joined the BRI.
Then there are the close links of BRICS with a plethora of regional trade blocs: ASEAN, Mercosur, GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), Arab Trade Zone, African Continental Free Trade Area, ALBA, SAARC, and last but not least the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest trade deal on the planet, which includes a majority of BRI partners.
BRICS+ and BRI is a match everywhere you look at it – from West Asia and Central Asia to the Southeast Asians (especially Indonesia and Thailand). The multiplier effect will be key – as BRI members will be inevitably attracting more candidates for BRICS+.
This will inevitably lead to a second wave of BRICS+ hopefuls including, most certainly, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, three more Central Asians (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and gas republic Turkmenistan), Pakistan, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, and in Latin America, a hefty contingent featuring Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Venezuela.
Meanwhile, the role of the BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB) as well as the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will be enhanced – coordinating infrastructure loans across the spectrum, as BRICS+ will be increasingly shunning dictates imposed by the US-dominated IMF and the World Bank.
All of the above barely sketches the width and depth of the geopolitical and geoeconomic realignments further on down the road – affecting every nook and cranny of global trade and supply chain networks. The G7’s obsession in isolating and/or containing the top Eurasian players is turning on itself in the framework of the G20. In the end, it’s the G7 that may be isolated by the BRICS+ irresistible force.