The first BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) Summit was held in 2009 with the intention of consolidating inter-economic ties between the four countries. The second and third summit brought forth discussions on inclusive growth and renewable energy within the framework of environment and food security. Consequently, in 2010, South Africa was added to the exclusive club – and “BRIC” became “BRICS.”
The recent conclusion of the fourth BRICS Summit on March 29, 2012 brought forth a deluge of questions regarding the position of BRICS on international issues and their significance in international relations. Undoubtedly, their prominence underscores the idea that the world is slowly becoming more accustomed to a multi-polar system where emerging countries are exerting themselves politically. However, how far can their power go in actually influencing global change?
Suggestions have emerged surrounding the concept of “South-South” development bank. However, one has to wonder how such an institution would function under duress from existing funding institutions. A South-South development bank may not work in BRICS favor because it would create a bipolar system within the advocated multi-polar system that BRICS seems to stand for. For example, the World Bank receives a majority of funds from the United States, and its current leader, Robert Zoellick, is an American. But in a South-South development bank, would China – with the largest economy – be pressured to put in the most money? Would BRICS member countries be willing to accept China’s power? Tensions might emerge where financial power is needed to make South-South Development Bank.
Secondly, the ability of BRICS to make a strong impact on global politics and economy lies in their ability to sustain development and find commonality in differing values and political systems. Russia and China are leaning towards a more authoritarian regime whereas South Africa, India, and Brazil favor democracy. Many analysts say this inherent contradiction could weaken the BRICS movement. However, it is also believed it could strengthen it. If successful, BRICS can become a model organization that proves differing countries can indeed work together despite its different political values.
Lastly, China surpasses economic and military power beyond Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa. China is seen as a rising power and this creates geopolitical insecurity for Russia and India. How BRICS manages its alliance will be key in its success. This tenuous relationship can either make a miraculous change in geo-politics or it can further tensions.
The determining factor for BRICS success will be its ability to find common ground and create a sense of security amongst member countries, in particular India, which seems to fear China’s power the most. If this organization becomes successful, a true multi-polar world can indeed be possible.