Cooperation among BRICS goes to the classroom

While the heads of state of BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) got together for the 10th annual meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, 31 students from those countries attended BRICS Summer Program 2018 on BRICS cooperation and governance in Fudan University.

The fifth BRICS Summer School, July 12 to Aug 7 this year, received undergraduates and graduates with different backgrounds ranging from law and international relations to economics. In total, 141 students have attended the course since its inception. This year, the majority came from Brazil and South Africa. “As China is the main trading partner of Brazil, Brazilians want to get to know more about the culture, politics and economy of China,” said Giovanni Okado, professor of international relations at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goias and PhD candidate at the University of Brasilia, from Brazil.

Each year, the BRICS Summer School offers 20 scholarships. “China wants to strengthen communication among BRICS students and make the basis of BRICS cooperation stronger”, said the Chinese student Li Lei, a postgraduate from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

The summer school offered classes on two topics: China’s politics and diplomacy, relations with Brazil, Russia, India and Africa, and BRICS Cooperation and Global Governance, such as South-South cooperation, cyberspace governance, financial cooperation, global energy cooperation and cross-cultural negotiations. The students also had the opportunity to share their point of view during discussion sessions, and through academic papers. “This program aims to enhance the communication among the BRICS youth and gives more possibilities to future cooperation among BRICS”, said Hou Xiaochen, Program Manager of BRICS Summer Program, the center for BRICS studies.

The students agreed that the course is an opportunity to enhance people to people exchange and understanding. “Institutional cooperation starts with people-to-people cooperation, so the more people connect, the better the cooperation will be”, said Okado. For another Brazilian student, Luiza de Silva Nakamura, PhD candidate at the school of international development at Nagoya University, the connection with other students is the most valuable experience. “Through this cultural exchange I gain deeper knowledge on each member country and what brings us together,” Luiza said.

The experience in Shanghai was not restricted to the classes. For Chandan Panigrahi, from Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi, the cultural exchange amongst the students was remarkable. “The program has helped in tremendous ways to learn about different cultures and mix with individuals from BRICS countries,” he said. Part of the cultural activities included visit to museums, the Xitang water town and a river cruise on the Bund. The students also paid a visit to the New Development Bank’s (NDB) headquarters in Shanghai.  “The visit to the NDB and interacting with them was a great insight into the structural and procedural methods of the bank,” said Sanika Ranadive, an economics student from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai.

For some of them, the program has helped them to decide to further their studies in China. “I have been learning Chinese for 6 years and BRICS is a good way to combine my degree and languages”, said Lagutina Maria Pavlovna, who is currently pursuing bachelor’s degree in international economic relations, at MGIMO University, Moscow, who plans to apply for Master Program in Fudan.

Zena America, from Stellenbosch University, in South Africa, who applied for the program after having done a course in Asian development economics, said the program in Fudan complemented what she studied in her undergraduate and postgraduate degree. “My assumptions of China and its people have been greatly skewed by depictions in western media”, she admitted. “So, I valued learning more about the Chinese perspective, particularly how the country sees itself in world politics.”