Tuesday, April 3, 2012

BRIC Countries: The Imaginary Alliance

The BRIC acronym has served to add a dramatic flair to shifting global power structures by envisioning a club of up-and-coming BRIC countries challenging a world order built on the bedrock of imperialism. But this isn’t accurate. The accord that is assumed in the BRIC grouping is imaginary. It doesn’t exist.

Of course, that’s not to say that the sum economic power of the BRIC countries is not impressive. Quite the contrary, combined GDP growth in BRIC countries since 2001 is tantamount to the appearance of one new Japan plus a new Germany in the global economy [1]. But that’s just a development success story, not an international organization. The combined economic clout of the BRIC countries does not engender any kind of sustained foreign policy coordination, whether in political, military, or even economic affairs. And this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. After all, this is a bloc borne not of diplomatic negotiation, shared ideology, or overlapping interests, but rather the turn of phrase of a Goldman Sachs analyst back in 2001; an analyst who, at the time, hadn’t even visited three of the four countries in question [2].

Consider the case of China and Brazil. Both are developing countries with the same presumed end-point: a highly-developed and diversified economy that is globally competitive. But, is it possible for both these countries to achieve this goal when they’re essentially following the same track and competing for the same markets, or will one of them be left behind? It’s quite possible that the truth lies in the latter. Read More