by Tamara Treichel
XIAMEN, China, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- The 9th BRICS Summit opened here Sunday, bringing together representatives from Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and beyond in this picturesque coastal city to strengthen South-South cooperation and give a greater voice to the world's emerging economies.
Even the intermittent rain did not dampen the positive mood at the summit, which runs from Sunday to Tuesay. In particular, the summit is indirectly serving as a venue to help mend ties between China and its neighbor, India, after the recent border standoff between the two countries.
"I think the trend is good, everybody is optimistic," said Atul Dalakoti, executive director of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, who spoke to Xinhua right after attending the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum on Sunday afternoon.
The Indian businessman commented on Chinese President Xi Jinping's remarks in his speech at the opening ceremony that "new growth drivers are yet to emerge" by saying, "we need to think outside the box and look at new engines of growth so that we can push the economic development."
"I sense more internal optimism and external confidence," Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a prolific China expert and observer, weighed in by email Sunday night.
The chairman of the Kuhn Foundation believed that the "optimism" and "confidence" are driven by two factors: the improving economic situation of several of the BRICS members and China hosting the summit, "which increases the visibility, publicity and international interest."
Although he admitted that fundamental differences exist among the BRICS countries, the American expert said that "what unites them is stronger than what divides them," adding that he believed BRICS is playing a role in resolving the differences.
Swaran Singh from the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University remarked on the recent friction between China and India and how that did not get in the way of the friendly and cooperative summit atmosphere.
"Even China-India differences have been carefully kept aside and not allowed to intervene in their multilateral cooperation," he said in an email interview with Xinhua, calling the resolve of the Dong Lang military standoff "a sign of their (China and India's) diplomatic maturity as major powers."
CHINA & INDIA AS BRICS BUDDIES
As the second-largest BRICS economy after China, India is very active in helping enhance capacity- and skill-building among developing nations, for example in Africa, Singh said, noting that it has been a big investor in recent years. BRICS is an ideal opportunity for India to contribute to global governance structures and help empower other developing nations, the professor said.
Singh believed that BRICS is clearly having a positive effect on economic engagement between China and India. Last year, bilateral trade volume exceeded 70 billion U.S. dollars, and China has become India's largest trading partner.
Although the two countries' trade shows a deficit in China's favor, he was confident that BRICS would be able to address such challenges. He also noted that recently there has been an enormous increase in China's promised investments in India.
For his part, Dalakoti pointed out the rapid growth of China-India trade over the past 15 years. He saw BRICS as having a "very, very positive" theme of people from five continents trying to work together and as China and India being equally important members within the bloc.
Many summit participants regarded China as an example to follow for other developing nations, for instance where poverty alleviation, renewable energy and the environment were concerned.
"China has in the past 30 years taken at least 500 million people out of poverty, I think we need to do that in India also and then in Africa, so there's a huge potential for growth," Dalakoti said.
Dalakoti, who is also in the Energy and Green Economy Working Group, mentioned India's efforts in promoting clean energy and combating pollution. "India has set up very good targets and met the targets in advance, and now we are looking at setting up 100 smart cities," he said. In that regard, China and India have common goals. "So I think there is a lot we can do, and we can learn from the experience of the Chinese," he said.
In an interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the summit, the BRICS' New Development Bank (NDB) chief K.V. Kamath also suggested other BRICS countries should learn from China's past success stories.
"In China's case, what the NDB has learned is success with renewables, which we then try to see whether we could take it to other countries," he said. He called this an example of "shared knowledge from our member countries."
BRICS GOING FORWARD
The BRICS nations originally enjoyed a reputation for rapid economic growth, but some critics have argued that BRICS is losing its steam. That idea, however, doesn't seem to be very convincing to some.
Singh suggested that BRICS still very much remains a good alternative to existing institutions as it offers a new model of financial governance and is even helping transform conventional Bretton Woods financial institutions. He said the NDB and Contingency Reserve Arrangement are proof of what BRICS can and is doing with their rapid decision-making, financial support in local currencies, and no-strings attached policy.
The BRICS example has already led to some reforms in World Bank and International Monetary Fund voting rights and has encouraged BRICS enterprises to evolve their own genre of financing, investments, technology transfers and market management distinct from Western multinational corporations' patron-client culture, Singh said.
"BRICS is surely seen today as the only grouping, along with the G20, that can redeem the global economy from its continued slowdown," the professor added.
Dalakoti believed that BRICS could help raise awareness of the importance of globalization, especially as some countries are reverting to isolationist and protectionist policies.
"We all need globalization, we all need to work together, we all need a lot of investments in our countries," he said, "So I think the whole theme of globalization is the bedrock of what we are talking about at BRICS today."
(Xinhua reporter Xiong Maoling contributed to this report.)