At a recent international seminar on BRICS Studies, in addition to the predictable themes such as building a multipolar world order and the One Belt One Road project, fresh ground was also covered, including the contours of the New Development Bank and the potential impact of the refugee crisis on BRICS countries.
The focus of the conference was to deliberate and discover new development paradigms that are markedly different from the Bretton Woods doctrine, and how BRICS members can embed these in practice.
The opening day included numerous speeches, mostly by former Chinese ministers and diplomats. The overall thrust was predictable: the Bretton Woods’ ideological unipolarity has to end, a new development canon has to be developed, China is interested in fostering a new multipolar world order along with other BRICS countries (as well as other developing and emerging economies), and the world’s (especially western economies’) mistaken notions of China’s global ambitions need to be corrected urgently.
Another recurring theme was bewilderment at India’s inexplicable reluctance to partner in the One Belt One Road initiative.
One of the notable keynote speakers, Leslie Maasdorp, vice president, BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), made three critical points: the NDB will be driven by pragmatism and all changes to the existing paradigm of development financing will be gradual; the Bank will embrace innovation and unlock new technologies with help from civil society and young graduates; and it was working with a long-term horizon of 25-30 years.
Maasdorp also sought to allay three popular misconceptions—that the NDB will compete with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that it will be dominated by China, and that its governance structures will be lax.
Among all the interjections, three stood out. In light of the refugee influx into Europe, BRICS members were requested to also frame a policy on migration. BRICS cannot remain insulated from this humanitarian issue, especially when the growth rate of some members is higher than that of their neighbouring countries. Second, if China wants to partner with BRICS and other emerging economies in articulating a new development theology, it will have to address internal social infirmities such as restrictive human rights, the bar on freedom of speech, and lax safety standards at its industrial complexes. Finally, China was advised to retrospect about why it was misunderstood by other countries, especially India, and make the necessary course corrections.
The seminar, titled ‘New Thinking on Development and BRICS Cooperation’, was organised by the Center for BRICS Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai, on 4-5 September 2015. The text of the full paper follows this blog post.
The paper was originally published in Gateway House. Here is the link to my paper at the conference: http://www.gatewayhouse.in/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Rishi_Fudan-full-report.pdf