The BRICS and China: towards an International New Democracy

We are very pleased to publish this important discussion article by Dr Jenny Clegg on the interrelationship between the development of the BRICS cooperation mechanism and multipolarity, anti-imperialism and socialism. 

Jenny looks carefully at the contrasting positions of those she dubs BRICS optimists and BRICS pessimists, as well as those occupying a political and analytical space between these two poles. Whilst there is a certain consensus that multipolarity is on the rise, there is a wide divergence of views as to how this relates to anti-imperialism let alone socialism. However, for Jenny, “the challenge for the left is to understand the interconnections: to fail to grasp the threats and opportunities at this momentous international juncture would be to fail spectacularly.”

Having discussed the political standpoint of the BRICS, assessed the prospects for their replacing dollar hegemony, and outlined the anti-imperialist framework of President Xi Jinping’s various global initiatives, Jenny draws attention to Mao Zedong’s and the Communist Party of China’s development of the concept of new democracy during the war of resistance to Japanese aggression, arguing forcefully for its applicability to the international terrain in the current period:

“As China now directs its efforts towards encouraging an international anti-imperialist movement among states of the Global South, with the BRICS as a significant group, the concept of New Democracy can shed light on the thinking behind this. There are three key points to highlight: an understanding that world revolution develops through stages; an analysis of the national bourgeoisie which recognises their potential to resist imperialist subordination and take part in independent development; and the assessment of the overall international situation given the existence of a major socialist state.”

In her conclusion, Jenny writes that: 

“Anti-imperialism and socialism are… not the same but they are inter-related: in the ebb and flow of the international situation the BRICS may swing this way and that, but what does make a difference to the anti-imperialist struggle in its international dimension is the solidity of China’s socialism.

“As a socialist country China is the most firm in its anti-imperialist stance: it has the strength, unity and manoeuvrability to stand up to and resist US pressure; it has its past experience to draw lessons from, failures as well as successes; it can stabilise the vacillations of the BRICS members to foster the group’s collective focus; it has the commitment and the sense of direction for the future to open the way ahead for the wider Global South in its struggle against imperialism.

“Through its own development, China is able to offer an enabling environment for other developing countries to remove those obstacles still constraining their national development.” 

Jenny’s article, which is based on her presentation to a conference hosted by the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in September, represents a profound and original contribution to a vital debate and deserves the widest possible readership and discussion.

A member of our advisory group, Jenny is a retired academic and an activist in the anti-nuclear, peace and friendship movements. She is the author of China’s Global Strategy Towards a Multipolar World, published by Pluto Press.


Over the last year or so the world has undergone a transition: from the all out drive by the US to assert its dominance through the New Cold War on China and Russia, it is now agreed across the international political spectrum – and widely acknowledged in the mainstream press – that a multipolar era has arrived.

When Biden, visiting Latin America, the Middle East, and then Southeast Asia through the summer months of 2022, failed to rally support for Ukraine and for isolating Russia economically, it became clear that the multipolar surge was cresting.  2023 then brought numbers of proposals for peace and offers of mediation from across the Global South – China, Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the African peace delegation.  Meanwhile, squeezed ever further as Western banks jacked up interest rates, developing countries began to come forward with their own proposals to change the system of debt financing.[1]

The BRICS summit in August was seen to mark the watershed moment with its expanded membership now looking to eclipse the G7 as leaders agreed to explore ways to sidestep the dollar.

With US hegemony fraying and numbers of countries starting to break free from its dominance, what is the left to make of this? What kind of a group is the BRICS with its mix of capitalist countries together with socialist China? 

Reactions to the summit exposed divisions amongst the left.  On the one hand, there are those who welcome unequivocally the rise of BRICS in the multipolar terrain as an advance for anti-imperialism.  Hailing the summit as a ‘giant step for multipolarity’, Pepe Escobar, well-known leftist geopolitical analyst and contributor to the Asia Times, reported its calling to ‘abandon the US dollar,’ whilst Fiona Edwards of No Cold War offered unalloyed support with the summit presenting a new high in the rise of the Global South and the priorities of economic co-operation and peace.[2]  Meanwhile, Ben Norton of the Geopolitical Economy Report website is constantly positive about the BRICS as, with the financial architecture of the world fracturing, the group works ‘to develop a fairer system of monetary exchange’.[3]

At the other end of the spectrum, political economist Patrick Bond has emphasised the ‘sub-imperialist and neo-imperialist tendencies of powerful BRICS members’, claiming this renders them ‘helpless to enact any substantive changes’.[4]  In similar vein, in a recent piece entitled Multipolarity: false hope for the Left, Zoltan Zigedy, a US-based communist, launches an uncompromising critique of left-wing intellectuals and academics who ‘cheer any force that attempts to diminish US power’: warning against the confusion of multipolarisation with anti-imperialism, he claims these analysts have just ‘become observers of a chess game between capitalist governments’.  What he asks, has this got to do with socialism?[5]

Between these BRICS pessimists and BRICS optimists are numbers who bridge both sides of the argument, including Vijay Prashad of the Tricontinental Institute who, seeing the development of the BRICS as part of a long history of struggle against colonialism and imperialism, hails the summit ‘for peace and development’ whilst pointing to a certain neo-liberal influence, as well as Andrew Murray and the editors of the Morning Star for whom BRICS is necessary but ultimately, lacking political cohesion, not enough.[6]

How is the new multipolar world to be understood and assessed?  Are the BRICS a positive force for peace or, riven by division amongst themselves, potential amplifiers of war? And what about the role of China which has been instrumental in unleashing the new dynamics?  It was after all Xi Jinping’s proposal for a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, delivered at the first anniversary of the war in February 2023, that was instrumental in unleashing the tide of peace calls from the Global South; it was China that from inside international negotiations on debt restructuring has been calling for a new approach to debt financing; and it was China that stood behind the move to expand the BRICS membership.

The multipolar terrain represents a complex of contradictory currents – between hegemonism and counter-hegemonism; imperialism and anti-imperialism; and capitalism and socialism.  The challenge for the left is to understand the interconnections: to fail to grasp the threats and opportunities at this momentous international juncture would be to fail spectacularly.

On the question of the BRICS: (i) debating their political standpoint

Now comprising 46 per cent of the world’s population and 32 per cent of the world economy measured by PPP (purchasing power parity), BRICS+ clearly has the potential to counterbalance the G7 (10 per cent of world population; 30 per cent GDP by PPP).[7]  As large developing economies, their prospects of future growth far outweigh those of the long-sluggish, stagnating economies of the advanced economy group. 

This represents a profound shift in the world condition from centuries of Western domination. But how much of a transformation is actually taking place?  After all, the BRICS countries are far more integrated into the world economic system than they ever were at the time of the Bandung summit and the height of the non-aligned movement.  More than this, India is seen to align with the US in the Quad; Saudi Arabia gets a huge quantity of arms from the US. 

Tied into dollar exchange and US alliance networks, and lacking political coherence, the BRICS, critics argue, are in no position to form a real alternative to the existing global governance and in fact do not even aspire to do so: what they want is just a better deal from the world capitalist economy, not to replace it. Certainly, the emphasis of the Summit statement is on reform of existing global institutions – the United Nations, World Bank, IMF, WTO, and so on.  For South African anti-BRICS activist Trevor Ngwane, they are just ‘capitalists fighting to be bigger capitalists’.

Zigedy goes further along this line of reasoning: challenging the view that multipolarisation heralds a new era of peace and development, he sees the current world condition of crises and competition as ‘the fertile soil of capitalist rivalries and state conflicts’. How, he asks, can capitalism-dependent states collaborate, putting aside their own self-interest, to create a world without competition, friction, conflict, and war between states, themselves made up of competing capitals?

The point however is to recognise that the BRICS countries have dual characteristics.  On the one hand, they pursue individualistic strategies, looking for spaces to leverage up their own leadership positions as regional and world powers as US influence ebbs.

But of course their national interests are hampered by imperialism.  In search of their own independent development, they oppose the rules of the global economy, rigged to ensure the flow of surpluses to the centres of world capitalism, but desperate for capital to develop their productive forces, they need access to the international financial system only to find that the IMF and World Bank require that they open their economies ever wider to the interests of the West’s big banks and corporations.

Since their trade is largely carried out in dollars, investment is handled in dollars, reserves are held in dollars, debt is denominated in dollars; the BRICS (as Desai and Hudson point out) are held hostage by dollar hegemony.[8]  A complete break with the imperialist system would be economic suicide. However, whilst their governments may indeed court trade deals and investment from the West, buy arms, manoeuvre for position between the US and China, they will also look to take advantage of complementarities in each other’s large markets, seeking to trade and invest amongst themselves for mutual benefit to break the monopoly of Western companies. 

The point is that although they pursue individual strategies to elevate their own international roles, they cannot succeed on their own: to advance their independence, they need to act together.  Through joint action they can share risks, coordinate policies to change the rules as set by the Western dominated world institutions and create more space for economic survival.

Insofar as they act individually, they may hasten the multipolar-counterhegemonic trend; but acting together they can begin to challenge the ‘rules’ of the imperialist system.

On the question of the BRICS: (ii) replacing dollar hegemony?

The BRICS grouping emerged in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. South-South cooperation was starting to change the geography of world trade.  With South Africa joining in 2010, the call from these early days was to ‘break the bonds of speculative capital’, shifting the priorities of the world’s financial system to stimulate productive activity to serve the development agenda.[9]

The 2023 summit took place amidst growing discontent with US monetary policy as its tightening interest rates hit emerging market countries causing capital outflows and downward pressure on exchange rates.  Added to this Russia’s shock expulsion from the SWIFT system which, according to summit host Cyril Ramaphosa, triggered a growing momentum in the world around the use of local currencies, alternative financial arrangements, and alternative payments systems.[10] Was the US about to lose its position of financial hegemony?

Excited talk of ‘dedollarisation’ spread across the left. But what would take its place? The most likely candidate, China’s RMB, forms barely a 3 percent share in global payments and the Chinese government is highly unlikely to remove capital controls to accelerate currency internationalisation any time soon.  Meanwhile for Andrew Murray, the idea of an alternative BRICS currency replacing the dollar is ‘almost absurd’.

Nevertheless, the summit was to commit the New Development Bank to further expand trade in local currencies which already makes up around a third of intra-BRICS transactions – up to a half for China which accounts for some 15 percent of world trade.[11]  At the same time, members’ central banks were instructed to seriously investigate further possibilities.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis also notes that Russia, China and India are preparing to offer digital bank services, which would not only greatly facilitate the use of their own currencies but also allow them to bypass SWIFT altogether.[12]

Replacing the dollar with any one system indeed seems a long shot, and to exit the system is out of the question.  But together, the gradual internationalisation of the RMB combined with the growing use of local currencies in trade and currency digitisation may well have a major impact on the global financial system in the coming years.  All the more so should Saudi Arabia, now a member of BRICS+, use the RMB in its oil trade with China (as agreed in principle).[13]

Even as their economies are enmeshed in international markets, the BRICS are not without room for manoeuvre.  Acting collectively to shift incrementally out of the dollar system, expanding room for independent development – this potentially would have massive implications not only for US hegemonism but the system of imperialism itself.

With the dual characteristics of the BRICS and possibilities of their transformational growth in mind, it is time to bring in the role of China: does China – its economy making up well over half the total GDP of BRICS+ as a whole – supply Zigedy’s missing element to the otherwise capitalist membership: socialism?

Xi Jinping’s global initiatives: an anti-imperialist frame

China has set itself ambitious goals to become a modern socialist country by 2049.  Different from the West which advanced on the back of colonial exploitation, it looks to rely in the main on its own strengths – its own labour and indigenous innovation, its own capital and markets as it follows an alternative path of green development, common prosperity and peaceful negotiation with the rest of the world. 

At the same time, as China starts to take its place as an advanced power on the world stage, it aims to play a central role in transforming the international order increasingly embroiled in zero-sum wars in which all are losers into a system of win-win cooperation based on mutual benefit.

Essential to China’s odernization are the three global initiatives recently launched by Xi Jinping: the Global Development Initiative, which upholds the right to development; the Global Security Initiative, which advocates common security in recognition that no country can make itself secure at the expense others; and the Global Civilisation Initiative, which is about mutual learning, challenging the belief that different cultures, values and systems are essentially incompatible.

These initiatives embody the principles of peace and development  fundamental to freeing the world as a whole of imperialist domination.[14]  With mutual learning to resist the West’s colonial-style practice of divide and rule now added, together they form the basis for a win-win international cooperation. Directed in the first place towards the Global South, they are offered as a guide to collective action.

Xi’s initiatives, it should be made clear, have not just been plucked out of thin air but are rooted in past international struggles: the Global Development Initiative revives the call for a New International Economic Order declared by what was then known as the Third World at the UN in the 1970s; the Global Security Initiative not only incorporates the five principles of peaceful coexistence – agreed by Zhou Enlai and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1954 and which came to form the core of the 1955 Bandung Conference – but also the call of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the 1970s and 1980s for a new security for all order for Europe based on the notion of indivisibility, that is inclusive of the Soviet Union in opposition to the Cold War nuclear arms race.[15]

Contrary to Western modernisation theory which attributes economic difficulties in developing societies to their deficiencies in values, institutions and legal practice, China’s approach associates problems of development with external imposition and interference, highlighting within the complex causes of present day wars the fundamental roots of conflict in histories distorted by colonialism and imperialism.

The Global Civilisation Initiative recalls the centuries of essentially peaceful interchange in ideas, beliefs and cultures along the Silk Road linking China to the Middle East and Europe.  Political liberalism, that is, the Western view, maintains that the law is absolute, but for China, differences today whether in outlooks, forms of government, or economic systems – capitalist or socialist – can potentially be bridged on the basis of a peace and development agenda.  Law in the West in fact derives from a particular system based on the protection of private property; China’s socialist system also protects private property but does so giving emphasis to public property and collective rights.

In recognising, within the right conditions and framework, and with the adoption of a more open mindset, that the differences between capitalism and socialism can be managed, the GCI supplies a rationale for the BRICS, validating not only anti-imperialist alliances but also overall the concept of peaceful coexistence.

Towards an international new democracy

The notion of the harmonising of capitalist and socialist systems was integral to the CPC’s concept of New Democracy adopted in 1940 to support the broad resistance against Japan’s invasion.  The New Democratic politics encapsulated the understanding that only by building a new society, a new state, a new China would it be possible to defeat Japan’s brutal occupation.  The Party’s programme then sought to create a popular alliance which included industrialists, businesspeople and even landlords who accepted reform.  This was to work democratically under the umbrella of the national cause based on consultation between the different class interests and under CPC guidance. The alliance with the national bourgeoisie was to continue after 1949 until their expropriation during the transition to socialism in the mid-1950s.

As China now directs its efforts towards encouraging an international anti-imperialist movement among states of the Global South, with the BRICS as a significant group, the concept of New Democracy can shed light on the thinking behind this.  There are three key points to highlight: an understanding that world revolution develops through stages; an analysis of the national bourgeoisie which recognises its potential to resist imperialist subordination and take part in independent development;  and the assessment of the overall international situation given the existence of a major socialist state.

Presenting the New Democracy concept, Mao argued firstly that any revolution that takes place in a colony or semi-colony against imperialism was in fact ‘a part of the new world revolution, the proletarian-socialist revolution’. His point was that revolutionary advance went through stages, moving first against the international bourgeoisie and international capitalism with the objective demand ‘to clear the path for the development of capitalism’; this demand then, precisely ‘in dealing unrelenting blows to imperialism’ serves to ‘clear a path even wider for socialism’.[16]

On the question of class analysis, it had not been easy for the CPC in the early days of revolutionary experience through the 1920s and 1930s, to work out how and why as a proletarian party with roots in the struggles of the workers and peasants, it should relate to a domestic capitalist class.

China’s national bourgeoise could see that what was developing inside its own markets was foreign – Japanese – capital not domestic capital; they were then ready to support the national resistance and contribute to building up the war economy. 

However, whilst Mao recognised that ‘in certain periods and to a certain degree’ the national bourgeoisie would display a certain revolutionary quality, they were also ‘extremely flabby politically and economically’ with a tendency to ‘compromise with the enemy’ as they were ‘closely related to exploitation’.  Nonetheless, although they were liable to fall under the sway of the pro-imperialist big bourgeoisie, this did not change their objective position as a class rooted in the expansion of the domestic market and in contradiction with foreign capital.  These right-wing tendencies were not then to be taken as the defining characteristic of the national bourgeoisie as a whole.

Whilst failure to guard against these weaknesses had exposed the CPC to Chiang Kaishek’s White Terror in 1927, the leftist efforts to build socialism through worker-peasant soviets opposing the bourgeoisie as a whole had led to a dead end; by drawing the domestic industrialists into the New Democratic alliance to face the new national crisis, they would help to unleash economic growth thereby supporting the economic base of resistance to Japan.

For China, the lesson from its revolutionary experience was that an overly rigid view of class relations can obscure the complexity and changeability of class behaviours and interests, and that the subjective and objective conditions for revolution need to be understood in their distinct aspects in assessing the overall situation.

What made the difference to the vacillations of the national bourgeoisie was the alternative leadership offered by the CPC as it took over the task of capitalist development in China against foreign capital. The critical factor for Mao in China’s attainment of independence was international: the support of the socialist Soviet Union as it made a stand against the development of worldwide fascism.

Taking these points forward into analysis of the BRICS calls for a reassessment of the significance of their international reformism and their potential in the current conditions to assist in the redirection of world finance to address global crises and steer towards more peaceful international relations.  As with China’s national bourgeoisie, even though they may be unreliable, even though they may fall under the influence of big capital and their political representatives – the Bolsanaros and the Modis, who choose to ‘nestle in the arms of imperialism’ – they should be seen as actual or potential allies of socialism overall.  Working together with China they can help to weaken the US hegemonic grip and develop the productive forces around the developing world so as to prepare the ground for future socialist advance.

China underwent a series of failed revolutions as imperialism came again and again to the assistance of the most reactionary classes until the CPC developed the New Democracy formula.  So today, acting solely in a domestic context, popular movements around the world which try to introduce progressive change are strangled one after another – few have the unity and resilience to withstand the political, military and economic coercion from the US and its allies. What to do?

Pulling together they are more likely to alleviate the pressures and to improve their external circumstances. As they look to each other, the critical factor in gaining independence now is increasingly China.

Making sense of the multipolar terrain: hegemonism, imperialism, capitalism

How then to understand the dynamic interconnections between hegemony and multipolarity; imperialism and anti-imperialism; capitalism and socialism in today’s world? And how to read the objective and subjective prospects for world revolution?

Those that argue the BRICS do not go far enough do so from a class-against-class perspective: socialism and capitalism are seen as exclusive opposites, making a joint project of different types of states unworkable.  But this is to deny the possibility and indeed necessity of unity amongst the different class forces in the struggle against imperialism.

Zigedy, claiming the BRICS optimists have abandoned socialism, himself abandons anti-imperialism through a sleight of argument which reduces imperialism just to its capitalist core. In doing so he erases the fundamental distinction between monopoly and non-monopoly capital.

It is through monopoly and the command of finance that the imperialist system of capitalism dominates the world economy. The business of imperialism is conducted through and sustained by dollar hegemony, which sees international finance become further and further detached from the real economy, diverted into ever-expanding circuits of speculation by a moribund system unable to maintain the rate of profit.

The growing demands for production to address the multiplying crises of climate change, economic inequality, future pandemics and not least war are now hitting the constraints of the dollar system; redirecting finance from war and speculation to productive investment, that is, sustainable development, is a matter of urgency. The BRICS, as mentioned, have stood for this since their inception.

The point is that whilst the capitalism of the dominant advanced economies has long stagnated, in the developing world, still substantially based on small-scale production, the socialisation of the productive forces – the conditions for socialism, as Engels made clear in his critique of utopian socialism – has a long way to go.[17]  Yet the capital which expands in these markets is still too often that of foreign not domestic businesses, which are increasingly squeezed by Western corporations amidst currency instabilities dictated by the swings of the dollar.

As China has shown through its four decades of reform and opening up with its focus on the development of the productive forces, private capital has a developmental role to play.  Its approach, adapted to the primary stage of socialism, also demonstrates a particular dialectic of unity-struggle-unity between state and market, public and private, with the balance to the former.

It is by this collapsing of finance and monopoly capitalism, and the dollar hegemony through which it now operates, into capitalism in general, that the BRICS critics arrive at their denial of the collective efforts of the group to reform the WTO, IMF and World Bank, relegated to no more than tokenistic tinkering about. In so doing, they fail to recognise the BRICS’ potential to transform world finance, to release bit by bit the constraints of dollar hegemony, redirecting finance into production incrementally to meet the needs of people and the planet.

It is true that the capitalist classes in the BRICS countries are much stronger and more deeply embedded in international markets than those in China in the 1930s and 1940s and that there are tendencies towards capitulation.  The BRICS critics have a point: the subjective upsurge in enthusiasm for US loss of influence should not be over-exaggerated.  Multipolar manoeuvring just for position and anti-imperialism should not be simply conflated: the pursuit of individual goals can create frictions within the collective.  A show of strength may increase the multipolar trend but does it necessarily advance anti-imperialism?

On the other hand, to deny capitalism has any part in anti-imperialism, and to make socialism the only alternative, fails to take account of the objective circumstances, that is, the different stages of world transformation.  An anti-imperialist phase which unleashes the productive power of capital in the Global South against the constraints of monopoly and finance capital, undermining the US hegemonic grip, would lay the ground objectively for a socialist transition in the longer run .  This failure to grasp this staged approach is to fatally misread the potential within the international situation with momentum gathering in the Global South and pressure mounting for more international cooperation.

Leftist critics echo arguments from the mainstream which deride the notion of the BRICS as a force for peace, highlighting tensions and conflicts between them. Zigedy sees multipolarity as a world of chaos unravelling into crises, uneven development, upstart nations rivalling for spheres of interest and militarism. Again with his conflation of capitalism and imperialism he puts competition at the root of conflict, not imperialist interference and domination; however capitalist competition and the drive for monopoly are two quite different things.

It is clear from the terrible wars of our time – the Ukraine crisis and now Israel’s war on Palestine – that the problems at root lie in the US drive to maintain control over both Europe and the Middle East, through Israel. As the Global Security Initiative suggests, external interference is the exacerbating factor.

With his dystopian view of multipolarity, Zigedy misdirects the focus away from the US-led New Cold War, downplaying the importance of BRICS neutrality in the Ukraine crisis in contributing to world peace.

Even if this was about keeping their own individual options open rather than a collective call for peace, the BRICS’ choices not to take sides, that is, not to prolong and complicate the conflict, halted the US drive to globalise the proxy war in its tracks.

Zigedy’s conflation of hegemonism, imperialism and capitalism also fails to take note of the contradictions among the imperialist powers themselves, notably Macron’s warnings to Europe not to become a “vassal” and to avoid being drawn into any conflict between the US and China over Taiwan.[18]

Conclusion: China in the multipolar context

China then is to be situated within the multipolar context at the nexus of the contradictions between hegemonism and counter-hegemonism; imperialism and anti-imperialism; capitalism and socialism.

Against the US hegemonic drive into zero-sum confrontation, China seeks to advance a path through multipolarity to anti-imperialism by harnessing the momentum for international cooperation into a new international movement for peace and development. 

Firstly, focussing on the Global South, and the more powerful BRICS in particular, China has put forward a package of principles to guide anti-imperialist collective state action towards the creation of a win-win order of international relations where states engage together not for exploitative gain but for mutual benefit.

As Devonshire Ellis points out, the influence of the BRICS vastly exceeds the bounds of its individual members: behind each exists a vast hinterland of regional organisations which he calculates enlists a further 64 countries in trade and economic arrangements – China with RCEP, India with SAARC, Russia with the EAEU and CIS, Brazil with Mercosur, and South Africa with the SADC, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – all potentially linked by digital technologies into a huge, global network of countries.

Bond’s relegation of developing states to dependencies of the ‘subaltern’ BRICS denies any agency.

Following soon after the BRICS+ summit, and buoyed by its momentum, 30 heads of state and representatives from the G77+China group of 134 countries convened in Cuba to stress the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the international financial architecture and a more inclusive and coordinated approach to global financial governance, with greater emphasis on cooperation among countries.[19]

Then came the gathering to mark the tenth anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with representatives from some 150 countries and 41 international organisations.

China has the economic heft as the world’s second largest economy to help rally the Global South.  At the same time, it is also in the best position to exploit the rifts both amongst the imperialist powers and within the US ruling elites so as to hasten the political paralysis of hegemony whilst promoting multipolarity. 

Xi Jinping put personal effort into his meeting with Macron to encourage the latter’s Gaullist aspiration for France’s strategic autonomy; and the Chinese government also rolled out the red carpet for Elon Musk and others, extending more top level meetings to him than to the Biden administration. Both Macron and Musk have now distanced themselves from US provocations of China over Taiwan. By exploiting contradictions within both the US international and domestic alliances, China chips away at Biden’s efforts to tighten US global and internal class networks through militarisation.

BRICS critics claim the multipolar trend and anti-imperialism are not the same, only to blind themselves to shifts amongst the imperialist powers.  An overly rigid view, insisting on absolute autonomy for Europe and Japan as well as the BRICS is impossible and denies relative shifts in power relations. Insofar as the BRICS pursue their own individual strategies manoeuvring for position, even as they ‘tinker’ with the rules of the international order, they may help to pose limits to US hegemonic and aggressive moves, propelling the multipolar trend. This in turn opens spaces for initiatives for peace and for the countries of the rising Global South to pursue their own sovereign policies, challenging imperialism.

And even as they waver between individual and collective options, the greater the instabilities of global crises, the more the BRICS will have to turn to each other for help to offset the risks, the more their collective characteristic may become the dominant aspect.

Anti-imperialism and socialism are also not the same but they are inter-related: in the ebb and flow of the international situation the BRICS may swing this way and that, but what does make a difference to the anti-imperialist struggle in its international dimension is the solidity of China’s socialism.

As a socialist country, China is the most firm in its anti-imperialist stance: it has the strength, unity and manoeuvrability to stand up to and resist US pressure; it has its past experience to draw lessons from, failures as well as successes; it can stabilise the vacillations of the BRICS members to foster the group’s collective focus; it has the commitment and the sense of direction for the future to open the way ahead for the wider Global South in its struggle against imperialism.

Through its own development, China is able to offer an enabling environment for other developing countries to remove those obstacles still constraining their national development. Together socialist China and the capitalist classes in the developing world can take the initiative in harnessing capital for development and environmental protection.  At the same time the redirection of finance should not be on terms that encumber developing countries in ever-greater financial difficulties, increasing their dependence on the advanced or even the emerging economies but should rather unlock the spiral of development.

Managing the contradictory dynamics of the international system ultimately depends on China’s success in handling its internal problems. In the coming years, China’s modernisation will face challenging economic readjustments, potentially exacerbating frictions between different social groups and classes, not least under the impact of disruptive emerging technologies. China should not as the West look for solutions through external means: it should not reproduce the old colonial pattern of the exchange of cheap raw materials for more expensive manufactured goods. 

The fact is that win-win can still mean a widening trade gap if one side wins more than others – and goes on winning. Resource producing countries in Africa are more actively looking for better deals, more jobs, more revenue and more high-value activities in processing and value-added manufacturing.[20]  It is up to China to increase imports, reduce trade imbalances in its favour and invest in industrialisation. Xi Jinping’s recent indications of support for Africa in growing its manufacturing sector and realising economic diversification, although details are yet to be fleshed out, are a sign that China is responding positively.

Again this industrialisation of the developing world must spread beyond the narrow class interests of bureaucrats and big capital to encourage domestic entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises – female as well as male headed – growing the working classes and at the same time encouraging diverse ownerships including cooperatives and state capitalist forms. China must set an example in addressing its own economic and social inequality.

In so doing, and by stabilising the BRICS, strengthening their collective capacity by mobilising their regional hinterlands; by unlocking bit by bit sources of finance for green development and the diffusion of new technologies so that poorer countries can leapfrog into higher levels of development, working with the trend of the rising Global South, China can advance the anti-imperialist agenda internationally, turning the downward spiral into further zero sum wars in which all suffer into a new world era of mutual winning.

[1] Aime Williams et al, ‘New World Bank chief under pressure as ‘Bridgetown initiative’ seeks $100bn’, Financial Times, 5 June, 2023,

[2] Pepe Escobar, ’Welcome to the BRICS 11’ The Cradle August 25, 2023; Fiona Edwards “Britain’s foreign policy is now out of step with the global majority” Morning Star, September 10, 2023

[3] Ben Norton “BRICS challenges US ‘dollar dominance’, Saudi considers selling oil in other currencies: New multipolar economic order” January 21, 2023

[4] Patrick Bond “BRICS+ emerge from Johannesburg humbled as sub- (not anti- or inter-) imperialists” Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Sept 1st, 2023

[5] Greg Godels (also publishing under the name Zoltan Zigedy) “Multipolarity: false hope for the Left” Marxism-Leninism Today September 29, 2023

[6] Vijay Prashad “BRICS: Summits, coups and a changing world order” September 20, 2023; Andrew Murray “Brics: necessary but ultimately limited” Morning Star September 9, 2023; Morning Star editorial “Brics expansion is positive – but not a coherent challenge to US power” August 25, 2023


[8] Radikha Desai and Michael Hudson, ‘BRICS or NATO?’ Geopolitical Economy Report

[9] T Manuel “Let fairness triumph over corporate profit” Financial Times, March 17 2009

[10] Cyril Ramaphosa, Media briefing remarks by BRICS Chair, August 24, 2023

[11] Hung Tran “Understanding the growing use of local currencies in cross-border payments” Atlantic Council, August 25, 2023

[12] Chris Devonshire-Ellis “A Common BRICS Currency Is Sometime Away, But We Do Know Its Name”  Silk Road Briefing August 23, 2023

[13] Yu Jincui, Xing Xiaojing and Shen Weiduo “Strengthened China-Saudi ties raise prospects for use of yuan in oil settlement” Global Times, December 8, 2022;

[14] Deng Xiaoping, ‘Peace and Development are the Two Outstanding Issues in the World Today’, 1985,

[15] see Jenny Clegg “China’s Global Security Initiative Concept Paper: Finding a Way to Peace”   May 23, 2023

[16] Mao Zedong “On New Democracy”  January 1940

[17] Frederick Engels “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, January-March 1880

[18] Jennifer Rankin, “Macron sparks anger by saying Europe should not be ‘vassal’ in US-China clash”  The Guardian April 10, 2023; see also Jenny Clegg “The France-China Strategic Partnership: towards a different type of international relations”

[19] Havana G77 Declaration on current development challenges: The role of science, technology, and innovation; Sept 15 and 16, 2023

[20] L Hook, H Dempsey and C Nugent “The new commodity superpowers” August 9, 2023

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