Let’s talk about BRICS

Some time ago, aspirations were high for setting new standards for social, political and economic developments in the BRICS countries. The hope was that these developments would diverge from those of America and Germany, from an increase in authoritarian behaviors in China, and from the lack of cohesion observed in the EU.

But now, as we scrutinize the state of affairs in the BRICS countries more closely, we find that Brazil has become notorious for hyper-corruption. Russia has become well known for breaking international rules and for its addiction to energy resources. India currently stands out for its bureaucracy and a fundamentalist Hinduism revival. China shows evidence of increasingly volatile cultural cleavages, and South Africa is plagued by significant uncertainties in governance. In short, where we previously expected to see new models for the future, there are multiple causes for concern.

Our questions are thus: Does it still make sense to address these five countries as a group, to see them as having numerous and significant similarities?

And, given the current characteristics of populism in these BRICS countries, are there any indicators for future trajectories of development that may support our previous expectations?

-Klaus Segbers

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  1. Alexei Voskressenski 9 months ago

    There is a conflict between Russia and the West, however, it is unwise to blame only Russia for that. As well, India is blamed for Hinduism revival and simultaneously for the lack of cohesion as an emerging global power. China is marked by authoritarianism and South Africa by uncertainties in governance, but who can name the state which is performing excellently under the present situation? People within EU are also dissatisfied, and the US has never had a deeper political division as it has now. The Antarctic is probably ideal, but it is cold to live there. BRICS countries still have significant similarities that make sense to consider coordination in addressing the changes in internal development as well as their external trajectories. The problem is that a populist segment in some of the BRICS countries still sees BRICS more as an opposing instrument of populist deconstruction of the existing world than a new model for a better future. However, as it is becoming clear that "America first" as well as "China First Dream" policies do not give the chance for the Rest to be on a par or equal. The need for pragmatic policy coordination and constructive multilateralism in BRICS as well as in other countries must return, and it will be followed by a new political will to change the world for the better and not to turn it upside down, close the eyes and say that it was always like this.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 9 months ago

    It is true that the BRICS countries do not show any achievement in the settings of new standards for social and other developments. Their co-operation is limited to regular meetings of leaders and joint statements, there is little real convergence. But it was difficult to expect successful cooperation between very different countries from four continents where democracy was only in the state of rudiments at best. The main aim of BRICS was to counterbalance the political and economic domination of the United States and Western Europe in the world. Now because of the actions of the US president the mutual understanding between Washington and Brussels has clearly weakened, it is much easier to achieve this goal. Moreover, when some Western countries increasingly tend to violate the principles of democracy and fail to concentrate forces on the removal of major threats - not just military ones.

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  3. Thilo Bodenstein 9 months ago

    The BRICS summit in Fortaleza in 2014 was the heyday of the group, when it managed to set up New Development Bank. Since then the group has not improved its cohesiveness. South Africa’s economy is dwarfed by China, and even India’s economy is 4.5 times smaller than China’s at official exchange rates. While China is a rising global power, the other BRICS countries are regional players at best. What binds them together is the rejection of a US-led world order, but the group has no common vision for a new world order. The coming years will see a widening power gap between the BRICS states. It hardly constitutes a credible alternative to the existing order. One member of this group, however, will continue to challenge the West. China is the only rival economic power. It will also emerge as an attractive soft power in many countries – not despite, but because of its authoritarianism.

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  4. Stephanie von Kanel 9 months ago

    While past aspirations for BRICS states were borne of a genuine desire to see these countries develop positively across socio-political-environmental areas, it is perhaps important to observe the US-Western centric worldview which formulated such ideations.
    Though such outcomes may still be reached eventually, it may not be through such Western paradigms. Indeed, each of these countries have unique cultural, historical, ideological, religious and social perspectives and realities. It may, therefore, be ineffective to implement Western value/social systems and hope for the same outcomes. From a developmental perspective, it is logical to take models or systems which have largely succeeded and hope to apply them elsewhere for similar results. However, I’m unconvinced homogenising the development goals for BRICS states would be effective.
    There are undoubtedly other ways to support Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to achieve greater stability in relevant areas, though without difficulties. As for subduing the tides of populism which seem to be sweeping BRICS states and beyond, this is the age-old question to which I have no singular or comprehensive answer.

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  5. Lwin Cho Latt 9 months ago

    Although the BRICS has prioritized the global economic governance system to be rearranged in order to strengthen economic cooperation among the emerging economies, a fair degree of lack of similarities in terms of economic growth, societal nature, and ideological dissonance poses a major threat to its concept of multi-polarity. In addition, the Doklam conflicts between China and India and a ‘BRICS plus’ model (created by China to support its BRI project) challenge their collective agenda. However, an expectation to become a diplomatic bloc in the world politics has been growing higher because of the privilege of China and Russia’s veto rights at the UNSC and because Brazil, India and South Africa are seen as the strongest candidates of the Security Council to adjust today’s political landscape. Under the current situation of declining liberal international order, how can BRICS legitimately gain its geoeconomic and geopolitical significance in the next decade of global politics? But I highly underestimate that a BRICS-led world order could not be achieved in the near future.

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