When the BRICS Summits officially began in 2009, the goal was clear, giving emerging economies a voice in the international community. The group was initially composed of four countries: Brazil, Russia, India, and China, while South Africa, representing the African continent, joined the grouping whose name is composed of the first letter in each member’s name a year later.
It represents 41 percent of the world’s population, i.e., more than ninefold the population of the US, and its countries make up around 29 percent of the world’s surface. Its members are also members of the G20. Initially a Western concept, the term BRICS first appeared in a 2000 Goldman Sachs report on the most important emerging economies, and it was only put up for debate among these countries in 2006, and the idea crystallized and took off three years later.
However, its position and importance in the world have changed significantly since then. When it was established, the combined GDP of the (BRICS) countries was around 10 trillion dollars, less than 12 percent of global GDP. Today, their combined GDP amounts to more than 27 trillion dollars, about a quarter of the global GDP.
To give an idea of their scale, the BRICS can be compared with the countries of the G7 (the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Canada, and Italy). The G7’s combined GDP is 34 trillion dollars, and indicators suggest that the next decade will see the BRICS make up around half of the global GDP, which would mean that its economies would outperform those of the G7. The BRICS population of 3.2 billion (and its increasing) is more than three times the G7’s population of 987 million.
The BRICS countries see the degree of influence they can exert on the international scene to be unfairly weak. China and India are the world’s second and fifth largest economies, respectively. With that, their influence and representation in international bodies like the World Bank and the IMF are incomparable to that of European countries; the same is true for other BRICS countries. The BRICS’ view on this matter is clear.
These bodies were established by Western forces and thus tend to favor Western countries. In response, the BRICS established the New Development Bank (NDB) in 2015 with 50 billion dollars in capital, to which the five countries contributed equally. The NDB aims to support infrastructure projects in these countries, and it has funded over 70 infrastructure projects with over 25 billion dollars. This makes it clear that the BRICS commitment to their pledges is firm, and studies have shown they commit to their promises almost as much as the G7.
The importance of BRICS stems, particularly today, from the emergence of the idea of a demarcation line between East and West, which the BRICS have been pushing for in several ways. Firstly, we have the fourteenth summit held in China late last month, which coincided with the G7 Summit in Germany and the NATO Summit in Spain. During the latter, the conviction that China poses a security threat was asserted by NATO for the first time.
Secondly, the Russian-Ukrainian war has made it crystal clear that China and India will not stand with the West if doing so goes against their interests. Moreover, both countries are currently buying oil from Russia at a discount. During last month’s BRICS Summit, the Russian President (Putin) said that trade exchange between Russia and the BRICS countries had increased by 38 percent recently. Thirdly, the BRICS have become stronger than before, as shown by the number of countries seeking membership, which leaves the West more apprehensive about the group.
Despite its global significance, the BRICS do not operate as a single unit. The divergences among its members are many, particularly those of its two largest countries, China and India. China is uneasy with India’s strong ties with the United States, and India is unhappy with the partnership between China and Pakistan to build the Silk Road.
Furthermore, China’s massive influence within this grouping should be overlooked, as its economy makes up 70 percent of the BRICS’ GDP, a far greater figure than its closest BRICS rival, India, whose economy makes up only 13 percent of the total! While the introduction of new countries to the group could strengthen the BRICS, it may weaken the positions of its current members, even with the entry conditioned on unanimous approval! Their differences could prove highly consequential for the group’s future, especially if Western powers exploit their disagreements to divide them.