August 23, 2023
From Internationalist 360

Pepe Escobar

After a long-running buildup pinpointed by immense expectations all across the Global South, Global Majority, or “Global Globe” (as coined by Belarus President Lukashenko), the BRICS summit in South Africa, on its first day, revealed a “lost in translation” incident that should be taken as a serious warning.

The BRICS Business Forum feed on South African network SABC turned into a BRICS linguistic Babel. The voice of all the translators, simultaneously, was clashing on the feed. Explanations vary from the desire to forge a new Esperanto (not likely); plain incompetence from the sound engineering team; the isolation of the translators in a separate cabin, not warned to turn off their mikes; or last but not least, NSA interference, messing up with the translators’ mic frequencies.

Whatever happened metastasized into a serious impediment for a South African – and international – audience, online, to understand what was being discussed. Even though “lost in translation” would not nullify the BRICS’s ambitious agenda for change, it certainly will be played up to the max by the usual Divide and Rule suspects to boost their already in effect all-round Hybrid War against BRICS.

The Shakespearean de-dollarization drama

Whatever the final concrete results of these potentially game-changing days in Johannesburg – I analyzed the key themes here  – the basic facts are immutable.

China and Russia, as the main drivers, are bent on expanding towards BRICS+ to resist imperial bullying, diplomatic and otherwise; build alternatives to SWIFT; promote economic self-reliance among members and autonomy from the sanctions dementia (which will only increase); and eventually forge an alliance against imperial military threats – with the possibility of BRICS+ merging in the future with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The China factor is arguably the key vector in all these complex, intertwined processes. It’s no wonder that President Xi, in his only second state visit abroad in 2023 (after Russia), will convene a special meeting in Johannesburg with dozens of African heads of state.

Chinese public opinion is absolutely riveted by the BRICS summit, with “interest surpassing the G7”. There’s extensive debate on the whole Empire-defying agenda – from de-dollarization to heightened influence in the energy market – and on the China-India divide, with New Delhi often pointed out as a hostile agent inside BRICS.

Sherpas, off the record, as well as diplomats from the current BRICS five (soon to expand) have been extra-cautious to frame the whole debate not on de-dollarization – still a distant prospect – but on alternative trade/payment systems in local currencies.

Yet in his address by videoconference – saluted like a rock star – President Putin was adamant: the de-dollarization process inside BRICS is irreversible.

Yet it’s internal contradictions that stand out when it comes to BRICS+. New Delhi has been extremely cautious – even as sherpas let it be known that the main rules for admission have been agreed upon.

The proverbial Divide and Rule spoilers have been spinning that Beijing wants BRICS+ to be a competitor to the G7. That’s nonsense. Chinese geopolitics is way more sophisticated – and would never present partners with an iron imperative. Beijing wants to solidify its de facto role of geoeconomics leader of the Global South by seducing the maximum number of partners, not intimidating them.

Thus the importance of the China-Africa meeting. South Africa was the first African nation to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Beijing and Pretoria are celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations. Xi and Ramaphosa will be talking overall African economic integration, in detail, with all those heads of state.

What does India really want?

China’s vision for BRICS+ and especially for Africa is intrinsically linked to BRI, which after all is Beijing’s overarching foreign policy concept for the next few decades.

India, for its part, has other ideas when it comes to configuring itself as a leader of the Global South. Earlier this year, New Delhi hosted a Voice of the Global South Summit, attended by over 100 nations. That might have conformed a sort of informal, multilateral alliance with diverse values but focusing largely on the same aims promoted by BRICS.

If China rolls with BRI, India rolls with a sort of – complementary – counterpart: the International North South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), where it’s one of the main actors alongside Russia and Iran. So here we have a top BRICS member and a putative BRICS+ member: India is very much keen on Iran’s accession.

All of that in fact points towards integration of BRICS, BRI, INSTC and also SCO (Russia, China, India and Iran are all members). Once again, the devil will be in the “lost in translation” details. There’s no categorical imperative stating Chinese and Indian priorities may not converge.

The RICs (Russia, China,India) have also noted that the overwhelming majority of Global South/Global Majority nations did not support – nor adhered to – the collective West wet dream of strategically suppressing Russia. Even though Russia is now the fifth-largest economy in the world by PPP (over $5 trillion) – ahead of imperial European vassals – the Global South’s perception of Moscow is as “one of our own”.

All that adds extra power to the new Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – which has to be courted full-time by the RICs. Global North late “initiatives” such as the American Build Back Better World and the EU’s Global Gateway are regarded as lush rhetoric at best.

Even as China is bound to solidify its prime Global South role especially in Africa after the summit, India counts on a boost as well in its self-designed role as a North-South power. That may be seen as a hedging-your-bets sort of game, as the New Delhi establishment prides itself to be intertwined with the Global North when it comes to strategic goals (Quad? Really?) while remaining a Global South actor.

Well, sooner or later something’s got to give. The Empire tailored its bogus “Indo-Pacific” terminology and strategy specifically to ensnare India. No one across Asia-Pacific has ever referred to the region in terms of “Indo-Pacific”. Yet, in one go, the Empire gets rid of China, the South China Sea and even Southeast Asia to accommodate in a catchy slogan what it regards as a geopolitical neo-colony at best and battering ram against China.

It seems that New Delhi is developing a trend: never live up to its potential when it comes to exercising sovereignty to defy the Hegemon.

Undermining BRICS+ from the inside

Russia’s reach is way more ambitious – ranging from the post-Soviet space across the Heartland to the real Asia-Pacific, West Asia and, much like China, also Africa. All of these players rely on Russian energy, food, chemical fertilisers and a host of commodities. As far as all of them are concerned, there will be no “decoupling” or “de-risking” when it comes to trading with Russia.

In his videoconference address to BRICS, Putin absolutely killed it on the connectivity front – expanding on the INSTC and the Northern Sea Route. Same when it comes to providing free grain to the poorer African nations. He also destroyed the “so-called” grain deal: Moscow would consider coming back, but only if its legitimate demands are met.

In contrast to fast expanding Russian soft power, how could Beijing expand its own – which may be severely lacking in several areas? Setting up Confucius Institutes is not enough; ideally the Chinese should start promoting a string of Global South think tanks, from West Asia to Africa and Latin America, to analyze the ever mounting geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges to the multipolar road.

For the moment, Beijing will turbo-charge institutional forms of South-South interactions, such as the Belt and Road Forum (the next one is in October); the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation; and the China-CELAC forum with Latin American and the Caribbean.

But then again, inside BRICS, it all comes back to China-India. 2023 might become a turning point in their bilateral relations. New Delhi organized the latest SCO summit (unfortunately only online; rumors about internal dissent were never fully disproven). And will preside over the next G20 summit.

And then there’s the toxic external factor: the already ongoing imperial Hybrid War against the BRICS. The usual suspects will go no holds barred to pit Beijing against New Delhi, especially after everything they threw against Moscow miserably failed.

This multi-faceted Hybrid War has been designed to undermine BRICS+ from the inside, especially weaker nodes Brazil and South Africa, and including already mega-sanctioned Iran if it becomes a member. The Empire will go no holds barred to not lose key pivots to Latin American and African hegemony.

As a whole, the RICs – and perhaps soon RIICs – should concentrate their attention on Africa. That doesn’t mean that a host of African nations should be allowed to join BRICS+ literally tomorrow; the question is to be able to help them in several crucial fields as the process of breaking from imperial/neocolonial control is now irreversible.

The Empire never sleeps – at least those who really run the show: Crash Test Dummies impersonating Presidents is another matter. With Taiwan false flag dreams fast waning, all bets are off that the Empire might set up its next big war psyop in Africa.

India Doesn’t Want BRICS to Dismantle the World Order Built by the West