Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, March 30, 2012

Another route to global influence

As China seeks to make itself more of a world leader, it looks for ways to counterbalance Western dominated institutions. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one way. BRICS is another.

For Group of 5 Nations, Acronym Is Easy, but Common Ground Is Hard
As the shock waves of the global recession convulsed Europe and the United States three years ago, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China gathered for a meeting that seemed to signal a new era. They had global buzz as rising economic powers, a catchy acronym, BRIC, and an ambitious agenda to remake an international monetary system long dominated by the West…

When the group’s leaders meet in New Delhi… their biggest achievement will have been adding an S: they took on South Africa last year. The five BRICS nations still rank among the fastest-growing economies in the world, and, even if growth has slowed, individually, their global influence continues to rise. But they have struggled to find the common ground necessary to act as a unified geopolitical alliance…

The BRICS are still a new group, and some analysts argue that with time they could become a more cohesive alliance. But for now, they are troubled by internal rivalries and contradictions that have stymied the group’s ability to take any significant action toward a primary goal: reforming Western-dominated international financial institutions.

Since its inception, the group has discussed creating a development bank to rival the World Bank, and on Wednesday a Chinese official expressed hope that a breakthrough might come this week. Yet to date the proposal has been stalled, partly over worries that China would dominate the new institution…

Deep internal political and economic differences complicate the prospects for unity. India, Brazil and South Africa are democracies and have already used their own separate trilateral group, IBSA, as a primary platform for coordinating positions on several major diplomatic issues.

Russia, however, has drifted away from democracy toward strongman rule under Vladimir V. Putin. China is the world’s largest authoritarian state and has by far the largest and most powerful economy in BRICS, which creates a complicated dynamic. China is the heavyweight, and thus the natural leader of the group, except that it is the political outlier…

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