The BRICS group, composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, is on the precipice of a historic decision that could reshape the world order. As the 15th Summit convenes in Johannesburg, the spotlight is cast on two pivotal challenges: expanding its membership and pursuing financial independence from Western hegemony. This gathering has garnered unprecedented global attention, underscoring the growing influence of BRICS since its inception in 2006. From its early days as a ministerial-level discussion on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum to the first Summit in Ekaterinburg in 2009, BRICS has come a long way in its journey to challenge the prevailing world order.
Introduction to BRICS: A Global Economic Force
The term BRIC was coined by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in 2001, identifying the growth potential of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Later, South Africa joined, forming BRICS.
Established in 2009, BRICS isn’t a traditional organization like the UN or World Bank. Instead, it’s an informal alliance challenging the US-dominated world order, with its creation initiated by Russia.
The heads of their nations meet annually to discuss shared concerns. Each country holds the rotating chairmanship for a year, showcasing a collaborative approach to global challenges.
Read more: 20 Nations Eager to Join BRICS Alliance
Expanding Membership: A Multifaceted Dilemma
The prospect of expanding BRICS’ membership has ignited fervent discussions among the member states. Around 20 countries, including Algeria, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia, are exploring avenues to join the group. This aspiration reflects a shifting global landscape, where non-Western nations are seeking an alternative to the existing global order. It also highlights the growing discontent with Western dominance in politics, economics, finance, and media. However, while broadening the group’s membership could symbolize a formidable counterpoint to the US-led alliance system, it prompts a crucial question: Would diversifying the bloc’s composition automatically strengthen its impact?
Internally, the member states hold diverse perspectives on expansion. Drawing inspiration from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which successfully expanded its ranks without diminishing efficacy, could provide a model for the group. The SCO’s incremental approach, accommodating countries like India, Pakistan, and Iran, offers a blueprint for them to consider. By adopting a similar method, BRICS could potentially strike a balance between growth and functionality.
Financial Independence: Untangling the Dollar Web
The global geopolitical landscape has underscored the urgency of reducing BRICS’ reliance on the US dollar. The United States weaponization of the dollar in its confrontations with Russia and its manipulation of trade and technology against China has underscored the need for financial autonomy. However, attempts to create a common currency within the group’s significant challenges. A universal currency for economies as diverse as China, Russia, and Brazil could undermine national sovereignty principles. As such, achieving the initial goal of financial independence seems elusive.
An alternative approach lies in bolstering the practical usage of national currencies within the BRICS trade. Collaborative efforts to enhance the functionality of the Chinese Yuan, Russian Ruble, and other currencies within the group could pave the way for more autonomous transactions. While these initiatives might face hurdles, addressing issues like currency convertibility, external usage restrictions, and exchange rate volatility could pave the way for incremental progress.
BRICS vs. G7: Divergent Paths
Comparisons between BRICS and the G7 reveal stark contrasts in ambition, structure, and development. While the G7, comprising Western powers, seeks to propagate its globalist ideals, the group places paramount importance on national sovereignty. The G7 is politically and ideologically united, led predominantly by the United States, while BRICS embodies a rich tapestry of diversity in all aspects. China’s economic might within BRICS does not translate into a dominating role, setting it apart from the US-centric leadership of the G7.
A New World Order: Shaping the Future
As BRICS members convene in Johannesburg, they stand at a crossroads between shaping a new, inclusive world order and challenging the established hegemony. The G7 aims to maintain the existing Western-dominant order, while they envision a more balanced, multipolar global landscape. Despite the challenges and opposition that lie ahead, the foundational pieces of an open, comprehensive world order are gradually falling into place within their framework.
The BRICS Summit in Johannesburg holds the promise of historic decisions that could alter the course of global affairs. The twin challenges of expanding membership and establishing financial independence reflect a collective desire for a more equitable and diverse world order. By embracing lessons from the SCO, addressing issues around financial autonomy, and nurturing a diverse tapestry of member states, BRICS could pave the way for a world where development takes precedence over dominance. As this global gathering unfolds, the intricate interplay between these challenges will determine whether BRICS can fulfill its ambitious vision for a new world order.