April 23 witnessed an online report presentation of the Valdai International Discussion Club, titled "BRICS and the Rivalry Pandemic", and prepared under the "Global Democracy and International Governance" scientific program. The event was moderated by one of the report authors and Valdai Club Program Director Timofey Bordachev.
The event was also attended by other authors of the report – Scientific Director of the Expert Council for the Preparation and Support of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship Victoria Panova, Deputy Director and researcher of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School Of Economics' Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs Dmitry Suslov. Apart from them, the discussion involved Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Planning Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Pavel Knyazev and Deputy Director of the Research Center for the Economies and Politics of Transitional Countries in Liaoning University Cui Zheng.
Report presentation participants raised difficult questions related to activities of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) within the current perplexing coronavirus pandemic context. As Timofey Bordachev noted in his opening speech, the BRICS countries are now facing strong challenges posed by COVID-19. At the same time, in his opinion, challenges are not only difficulties, but also new opportunities of BRICS development.
Dmitry Suslov told about the line for the BRICS to develop, which has already exceeded the scope of a simple five-country dialogue format and begun to turn into one of the centers of world governance, without seeking to become a non-Western analogue of G7. According to the expert, the BRICS will survive this coronavirus pandemic and become even stronger. He also explained why the report was called that particular way. According to him, amid the pandemic, there is a rivalry between Western countries, with their selfishness fully manifested – they steal each other's medical equipment and protective masks.
The aggressiveness of the West is particularly evident in the behavior of the United States, which blames the World Health Organization (WHO) and China for the coronavirus pandemic and tries to incite other BRICS members – South Africa and India – against the PRC, the NRU HSE expert stressed. Such behavior is not characteristic of BRICS, with the association's existence and development based on equality and mutual respect. According to Suslov, within the existing pandemic circumstances, BRICs cooperation with the G20 countries and the so-called third world is particularly important. In the course of the discussion, the expert suggested that the five countries could initiate additional financing for the WHO to combat coronavirus.
Pavel Knyazev noted in his turn that the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated many problem-plagued trends developing in the world for the time being. In his opinion, the coronavirus has complicated the work of many international organizations and forums. In this regard, it is necessary to improve the management systems of these processes. According to Knyazev, globalization proved unable to solve issues stemming from the pandemic and to abandon the previous course of action.
At that, the diplomat stressed that the BRICS structure is premised on the notion of partnership and cooperation, and one can hardly imagine the modern world without this association. And the very essence of its philosophy is the concept of a multipolar world order. As Knyazev said, the proverb "a friend in need is a friend indeed" has exceptionally manifested itself within the BRICS under the current pandemic conditions, when the five countries are seeking to help each other in every possible way, sharing their experience in fighting coronavirus.
Moreover, as the diplomat noted, the BRICS countries are also helping other states, like the CIS or Europe. According to him, Russia and China have plenty of experience in fighting epidemics, but the present-day one has highlighted new problems, namely in early warning and prevention of infectious diseases. This aspect should be addressed by all the BRICS countries in their further work on health cooperation, Pavel Knyazev believes.
Victoria Panova emphasized that despite numerous statements in the West, the BRICS force proved its worth over the time of its existence. And given the pandemic, BRICS looks much more attractive as compared to many Western organizations and associations. This is brought about by the solidarity and mutual assistance of all the BRICS member states, not reproaches or claims. The expert also pointed to the humane approach of the "group of five". According to her, a new BRICS economic cooperation strategy will be adopted this year to become a response to the new global economic crisis.
Panova believes that in the context of the pandemic, there has been a socially-oriented shift of emphasis in the BRICS work, i.e. specific assistance to citizens of both the association's member states and other counties. She believes that the existing anti-coronavirus achievements of the five countries can be successfully used by the rest of the world.
Chinese expert Cui Zheng, engaged in report presentation, said BRICS had good future development prospects. He stressed that the group of five was not a rival or competitor of the G7, but had other purpose and intent. At this point in history, the main focus for BRICS is the fight against the pandemic, as well as international economic healthcare cooperation. At the same time, he pointed to the need for the "five" to cooperate with the WHO in combating coronavirus.
Referring to the upcoming St. Petersburg BRICS summit in July this year (Russia chairs the group in 2020), Cui Zheng stressed that the pandemic may turn it into a videoconference meeting, just like many international forums are currently held.