This study addresses the future of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the members’ social, political, economic, and diplomatic disparities, and how these differences could prevent the BRICS from proving a coherent and effective strategic alliance. The analysis of the group’s common features and differences, strategic culture, and foreign policy suggests that despite their potential, the BRICS are not likely to deliver a new international system.
The BRICS made headlines throughout the 2000s, as the member states experienced a significant economic boom. Their growing economic (and thus geopolitical) relevance motivated the five to work more closely together, largely in an effort to shift influence away from the Group of 7 (G7) developed economies toward the developing world. But more recently, Russian military escalation in Syria and the crisis afflicting many emerging market economies have called into question the growth model of the BRICS nations. Though the impact of China’s economic slowdown and financial turmoil on the global economy is not yet clear, the same cannot be said for its repercussions for the developing world — including China’s fellow BRICS.
Ultimately, this all points to an alarming reality: the foundation of the BRICS concept is beginning to crumble. So are the members strong enough to absorb this blow? And even if the individual members emerge intact, can the BRICS remain viable?
Despite the efforts to create an institutional framework that facilitates cooperation among the BRICS the grouping remains primarily rhetorical, not concrete. And the lack of tangible achievements bodes ill for the group’s long-term survival.
Conflicting interests and the indisputable political, social, and cultural differences among the group’s members have kept the BRICS from translating their economic force into collective political power on the global stage. And with economic prospects decreasingly promising, the notion of the BRICS as a political project seems too fragile to stand on its own. As the economic crisis develops, these contradictions will likely become still more apparent, exposing the inconsistencies and lack of cohesion that characterize the group’s positions. Even as the BRICS claim to advocate for a new global system, for example, the biggest obstacles to United Nations Security Council reform remain China and Russia — themselves both BRICS members.
Each of the group’s members faces a distinct domestic reality, as well — realities that can variably bolster and hinder the priorities of the BRICS.
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