In an article to the Business Standard, Indian writer Harsh Pant discussed the BRICs, the lack of coalition about themselves, and the fallacy of the “rise of the BRICs and the decline of the US”. Highlights below…
China vs. BRICS:
There is the structural disparity between China and the rest. China’s rise has been so fast and so spectacular that others are still trying to catch up. Its dominance makes the very idea of a coordinated BRICS response to the changing global balance of power something of a non-starter. The overweening presence of China makes others nervous, leading them to hedge their bets by investing in alternative alliances and partnerships.
China vs. Brazil:
There are significant bilateral differences among the BRICS. Brazil is worried about the influx of Chinese investment and cheap Chinese imports and has been very vocal in criticising China for its undervalued yuan. Brazilian manufacturers are losing market share to their Chinese counterparts. Brazil is also wary of China’s growing economic profile in South America.
China vs. Russia:
Russia too is worried about its growing economic disparity with China. Russia’s failure to develop its Far East has allowed China not only a toehold in this strategically important region but has also pushed Beijing into the driver’s seat in defining the Asian security landscape. Russia’s Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin has openly warned that if Russia fails to become a “worthy economic partner” for Asia and the Pacific Rim, “China…will steamroll Siberia and the Far East.” And, even though China is the largest buyer of Russian conventional weaponry, many in Russia see this as counterproductive because China might emerge as the greatest potential security threat to Russia, worse than what the US could ever become.
China vs. India
The saga of the recent decline in Sino-Indian ties is well-known. Despite the rhetoric of Asian solidarity, New Delhi remains sceptical of Chinese intentions. The prime minister himself has acknowledged that “China would like to have a foothold in South Asia and we have to reflect on this reality…It’s important to be prepared.” India’s trade imbalance in favour of China went up to $20 billion out of an overall bilateral trade of $55 billion as of December 2010, from $16 billion in 2009.
It is thus difficult to see a productive future for BRICS together.
The rise of BRICS is as exaggerated as the decline of the US. The tectonic plates of global politics are certainly shifting —but not yet in easily predictable ways.