SANYA, China — Leaders of the world's major emerging powers are set to meet Thursday in China at a summit expected to tackle the conflict in Libya and reform of the international financial system.
The summit of the five-member BRICS bloc -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- in Sanya on the southern tropical island of Hainan will also look at how developing nations can exercise more clout on the global stage.
Chinese President Hu Jintao will chair the meeting with his South African, Brazilian and Russian counterparts Jacob Zuma, Dilma Rousseff and Dmitry Medvedev, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Leaders were expected to issue a joint statement at the end of their wide-ranging morning talks.
Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill first coined the term BRIC in 2001 to describe the growing influence of the world's four largest emerging economies. South Africa was invited to join the group at the end of last year.
"The BRIC economies are increasingly the major story for the world economy -- they have lifted the world economy's growth trend from 3.7-4.5 percent in my view," O'Neill was quoted as saying by the official China Daily newspaper.
Together, the five countries represent more than 40 percent of the world's population, and their combined GDP accounted for 18 percent of the global total in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Singh said before he left for China that he hoped the five countries would coordinate their positions on areas such as balanced growth, energy and food security, reform of international financial institutions and balanced trade.
"That will be to our advantage," Singh said.
On his arrival in Sanya on Wednesday, Zuma called the occasion a "historic moment" for South Africa.
His foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the push for reform would "ensure that African issues enjoy centre stage in deliberations within the UN Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank."
A statement issued by BRICS ministers meeting Wednesday on the eve of the summit said the five nations still faced "economic overheating issues" such as "inflationary pressures and asset bubbles", Dow Jones Newswires reported.
The leaders are expected to discuss the situation in war-torn Libya, after an African Union attempt to broker peace failed.
South Africa was the only BRICS nation to approve a UN Security Council resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya and authorising "all necessary measures" to protect civilians, opening the door to coalition air strikes.
The other four countries have expressed concern that the NATO-led campaign -- which aims to thwart Moamer Kadhafi's assault on rebels seeking to end his 41-year rule -- is causing civilian casualties.
Chinese assistant foreign affairs minister Wu Hailong told reporters at a briefing about the summit that the situation in Libya would "be of major concern to the BRICS leaders".
Also on the agenda will be how to strengthen BRICS' contribution to the reform of the international monetary system, Wu said.
But many issues that divide the five nations such as China's yuan policy and reform of the UN Security Council are not likely to come to the fore -- at least not openly, he added.