The 2022 summit between leaders of China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa (BRICS) starts tomorrow, Thursday. In a speech preceding the virtual gathering, the host, Chinese President Xi Jinping, warned against "expanding" military ties. Meanwhile, only one BRICS country is critical of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, while some of the others have increased oil purchases from Moscow.
Originally, the term BRICS was coined in the 2001 Goldman Sachs report "Building Better Global Economic BRICs" report which predicted that Brazil, Russia, India and China were "set to grow more" than the G7 in terms of GDP. The four countries created a loose economic alliance and the first "BRIC" meeting was held in Yekaterinburg in 2009.
During the three-day meeting in 2011 in Hainan (China,) South Africa joined, adding the S to BRICS.
Currently BRICS countries constitute 40 percent of the world's population. In 2021 combined BRICS members registered a GDP of $23.5 trillion, more than the US ($ 20,9 trillion) and the EU($17,9 trillion.)
While the grouping has been created so that all members and functions are divided equally by way of a rotating chairmanship, critics argue that China has made itself the de facto leader, although Beijing's rival India is trying to push back China's growing influence.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, resulting in massive condemnation from G7 countries and their allies, may have pushed BRICS members closer to each other too.
On 2 March, three of its members - China, India and South Africa - abstained from voting on the UN resolution condemning a fourth member - Russia - for its invasion of Ukraine. Of the five, only Brazil supported the resolution.
Xi told the BRICS business forum that the "Ukraine crisis is... a wake-up call" and warned against "expanding military alliances and seeking one's own security at the expense of other countries' security".
China and India have strong military links with Russia and buy large amounts of its oil and gas.
In a call last week, Xi assured his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that China would support Moscow's core interests in "sovereignty and security", leading the United States to warn Beijing that it risked ending up "on the wrong side of history".
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South Africa, one of the few African countries wielding diplomatic influence outside the continent, has also failed to condemn the Russian military action.
Xi also took a swipe at the US and European Union sanctions on Russia in the speech on Wednesday, saying "sanctions are a boomerang and a double-edged sword".
The BRICS summit takes place as Russian troops continue to pummel eastern Ukraine after invading the country four months ago.
China and India have both ramped up crude oil imports from Russia, helping Moscow to offset losses from Western nations scaling back energy purchases from the country.
India bought six times more Russian oil between March and May compared with the same period last year, while imports by China during the same period tripled, data from research firm Rystad Energy shows.
Once bitter Cold War rivals, Beijing and Moscow have stepped up cooperation in recent years.
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The two countries also flew bomber aircraft over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea while US President Joe Biden was in Tokyo in late May, signalling strong military links.
This month, they also unveiled the first road bridge linking the countries, connecting the far eastern Russian city of Blagoveshchensk with the northern Chinese city of Heihe.
President Putin was also in Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, just days before the invasion started.