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Brics divisions re-emerge ahead of critical expansion debate

Brics leaders met to discuss the future of the bloc, with tensions rising due to Russia's war in Ukraine and China's rivalry with the US. China and Russia are seeking to strengthen Brics to counter Western dominance. The summit also aims to boost the use of local currencies in trade to lessen dependency on the US dollar.

Brics leaders convened on Tuesday to strategize the future trajectory of the bloc of developing nations, but divisions resurfaced ahead of a crucial discussion about potentially expanding the group to enhance its global influence.

The heightened tensions resulting from Russia's conflict in Ukraine and China's growing rivalry with the United States have prompted China and Russia, with President Vladimir Putin attending virtually, to seek to fortify Brics. They aim to utilize the Aug 22-24 summit in Johannesburg to solidify the alliance, which also includes South Africa, Brazil, and India, as a counterforce to Western dominance in global institutions.

China's President Xi Jinping, in a speech delivered at a Brics business forum, stated, "At this moment, unprecedented changes are unfolding in the world, in our time, and in history, bringing human society to a critical juncture. The choices we make will shape the course of history." Despite the presence of counterparts Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Xi did not attend the event. His remarks were conveyed by Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, and it remains unclear why President Xi was absent, especially considering his prior meeting with host President Ramaphosa earlier in the day.

Statements made by Brazil's President Lula indicate a divergence of perspectives within the bloc, which political analysts assert has long struggled to establish a coherent understanding of its role in the global order. President Lula stated during a social media broadcast from Johannesburg, "We do not aspire to be in opposition to the G-7, G-20, or the United States. We simply aim to organize ourselves."

In addition to the question of expansion, the summit's agenda includes efforts to increase the use of member states' local currencies in trade and financial transactions to reduce dependence on the US dollar. "The objective, irreversible process of de-dollarization of our economic ties is gaining momentum," remarked Russia's President Putin in a pre-recorded statement. Russia's economy is currently grappling with Western sanctions imposed due to Moscow's involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. President Putin, who is wanted under an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, is being represented at the summit by his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

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