In global geopolitics, military strength and capabilities or economic viability and prospects of a nation, such data from a data analysis understanding are vital to understand and measure its national power and strength. Over the years, many nations have come together to achieve their shared objective and interests and have expanded their grouping despite such groups are vital or no longer needed today. NATO fits such a description; in the paper, the analysis will be done on BRICS becoming an alternative to G7 as the bloc has started to undermine G7’s reach, power and influence in the global geopolitics.
On June 16, 2009, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) was formed, and the addition of South Africa in 2011 established BRICS, a bloc of emerging economies that are working to instate their world economic and trade systems. As data concerning the economy and military’s strength have a multi-frontal aspect, it remains relevant in geopolitics to understand a country or bloc like BRICS’ reach and influence. In 2023, BRICS contribution to global GDP (31.5%) has surpassed G7 contribution (30.7%) and now nearly accounts for 1/3 of the world economic activity and has become a voice of the developing nations worldwide.
The 15th edition of the BRICS summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, between August 22 and 24 under the theme ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism’. BRICS have aimed to reshape the political-economic landscape to benefit themselves and further shape the global political and economic order to suit their shared interests. The recent rise of BRICS and developments like the de-dollarisation, the drive to expand BRICS and China’s push to oust G7 and make BRICS a global leader has begun the G7 vs BRICS rivalry.
The significance of BRICS
The term BRICS was coined by Goldman Sachs Analyst Jim O’Neill, who argues in coming times, G7 members should consider adding BRIC members as their contribution to the global GDP will only increase. At the time of such a statement, BRIC’s contribution to the global GDP at the end of 2000 was 23.3% and today has surpassed the G7 contribution to global GDP and become significant and a strategic competitor and rival to G7. The 2023 BRICS summit has become the biggest summit in its history as the bloc invited 69 state heads, highlighting its rise and showcasing its growing value worldwide and global acceptance.
The BRICS mechanism and structure works to promote peace, security, development and cooperation to establish a fair and equitable world and became a prospect and, to an extent, an alternative to other countries to join the group. With group accounts for 41% of the globe’s population, 30% of the land area, 31.5% of global GDP and 16% of international trade, BRICS, today, no longer be ignored by other countries. Promoting cooperation, economic growth and development and enriching people-to-people contact are BRICS’s three pillars. Since 2009, the bloc has worked and established more than 30 cooperation among themselves and like-minded countries. With BRICS combined worth equal to the US economy, the bloc has become a voice for the global south (developing nations) and is pushing to reshape the global order and reform institutions like the UN, WHO, WTO and IMF. Further, despite the ongoing border dispute between India and China, cooperation between both nations in the BRICS forum has remained, and the Beijing Declaration 2022 showcases the bloc’s intent to address the conflict and ensure global peace and stability.
BRICS vs G7: China’s push to make BRICS alternative to G7
In recent years, China’s geopolitical initiatives and measures aren’t only to carve out a space for itself and counter the US-led order worldwide. Strategic moves like the Belt Road Initiative, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Civilisational Initiative (GCI) and their global acceptance have given ample scope to China to go past the US in coming times. In such circumstances, the growing significance of BRICS and becoming a strategic rival to G7 has become the focus for other developing nations to align with the group to secure their interest.
The transformation of BRICS from a non-aligned bloc for the economic interest of developing countries into a political force to openly challenge the West has yet to become a reality. The expansion of BRICS and the inclusion of six countries will change the direction of the bloc and its approach towards global geopolitics. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa argues that the expansion of BRICS will represent a diverse group of nations sharing a common desire, and India, Russia, China and Brazil support such an approach. Brazil’s invitation to Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Argentina to join BRICS in January 2024 will diversify the group’s power, hold and relevance in the global geopolitics. The inclusion of such nations enhances the scope of the BRICS, as the presence of large oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE and Russia, which holds 43% of world reserves and share of new members in the global GDP, will increase BRICS bargaining power in global power politics in coming years.
To understand such joining, the inclusion of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will amplify BRICS dominance in the Middle East region’s geopolitics, which will undermine US-led order in the region. Recently, China’s move to broker a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran has alarmed the West of China’s intent to counter the West as it began to flex its muscles. The BRICS provides China with an opportunity to expand its reach, and its existing ties with BRICS new members need to be carefully considered as it could impact the working and functioning of the bloc in the coming years.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his speech during the summit, argues as China looks for expansion of BRICS, emphasises China’s aversion to hegemonism and bloc confrontation and wishes for a more equitable international order. However, China and Russia look at the BRICS as a counter to Western dominance and oust G7 as a global leader in the coming years. Thus, the use of local currency for trade by BRICS members and the push to de-dollarise the global economy is being done with such intentions. A global de-dollarisation is still a distant dream; Chinese-led institutions and growing China’s hold in other blocs like SCO will give impetus to such a drive, and thus, the role of G7 to counter it has become pivotal.
On the issue of BRICS becoming an alternative and strategic rival to G7, a shift has been witnessed in the global geopolitics post-Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The anti-west narrative and its acceptance have gained momentum to move away from the US-led order viewed in the push for local currency for trade to de-dollarise the global economy. As the invasion united the West against Russia but distanced them from the rest as consolidation of the West is taking in the backdrop of a divided Cold War order, and emerging powers like China and India and blocs like BRICS have taken centre stage in global geopolitics. The push to formulate a BRICS currency has gained momentum, which will impact G7 and the US hold in the global economy.
As the rise of BRICS in the last two decades is impressive and unquestionable, the bloc members continue to trade more with G7 members than within the bloc. China being the lead economy of the bloc, its trade with the G7 (27%) shadowed trade with BRICS (7%), and such aspects were also reflected in the case of India, South Africa and Russia, excluding Brazil. In the current context, BRICS cannot offer the financial and economic incentives that the G7 has at its disposal as global acceptance of dollar provides G7 better scope to compete with BRICS. The inclusion of new members and the launch of BRICS currency in the coming years will empower BRICS. Being politically appealing to many countries, in the coming times, with new members, BRICS will become strategically vital and an alternative to G7 to nations willing to bandwagon with the rise of the global south and BRICS.
This raises a valid point, if BRICS has to remain relevant in global geopolitics in the coming decades, the members (existing and new) must come together and formulate a clear vision to secure their core principles and pillars. The expansion of BRICS is a good prospect as it will strengthen its voice, allowing it to venture into a new domain like the outer space, artificial intelligence etc. However, BRICS members should strengthen trade with each other, strengthen their internal economy and National Development Bank (NDB) and set up a meditation process that will project BRICS as a serious player intent to address global issues and threats. Further, BRICS should set up a new institution – transforming ideas into a reality – like the BRICS Credit Rating Agency proposed by India, benefiting others by providing an alternative to the Standard & Poor and Moody. Such developments will strengthen BRICS and supersede the G7 as a vital player and mediator in global geopolitics. It will empower China to push its agenda and idea of a new global order, and the Chinese-led initiatives like the GDI and Global Security Initiative coupled with the summit highlight BRICS is moving in this direction. However, other BRICS members must address such a scenario and ensure that the existing global order and BRICS don’t become another SCO that acts as a vehicle for China to challenge the existing global norms.