The big powers in international relations refer to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These nations can veto, which means they can prevent the Security Council from adopting any substantive resolution. These nations also possess nuclear weapons and are recognized as nuclear-weapon states. These states have a privileged position and a special responsibility for maintaining global order and stability. However, current international relations are changing the realities of the 21st century.
In current international relations, emerging powers or states have a significant rising influence in global affairs. They aspire to have a more powerful position or role in international relations, either regionally or globally, and possess sufficient resources and levels of development to make such goals potentially achievable. Therefore, it can be said that the world is getting larger than big powers in international relations, as more diverse and complex actors and issues require cooperation and coordination among the international community.
Emerging powers have played an active role in multilateral negotiations and initiatives to address these challenges, sometimes in cooperation with established powers and sometimes in competition with them. These nations are contributing to the resolution of global issues and problems, such as climate change, poverty, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation. They have also provided financial and technical assistance to other developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia, to promote their development and security.
Emerging powers’ different historical experiences, cultural backgrounds, and political systems from established powers affect their views and preferences on these issues. With the changing geopolitical scenario in the international system, these countries are shaping the norms and values of the international community, such as human rights, democracy, sovereignty, and non-intervention. They have often challenged Western-led norms and advocated for multipolarity in international relations. Cooperation between emerging and established powers is not always easy or smooth, but it is necessary and beneficial for both sides and the world. By cooperating, emerging and established powers are trying to enhance their mutual understanding and trust, increase their influence and leverage in global affairs, and contribute to the peace and prosperity of the 21st century in the international system.
Emerging powers can promote regional stability in various ways. Emerging powers can use their diplomatic and economic influence to facilitate dialogue, mediation, and cooperation among their neighbors and to prevent or resolve conflicts peacefully. With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, emerging powers from South Asia and Africa have been balancing the interests of securing energy and food with the presence of external powers that have a stake in the region, such as the United States, the European Union, or China. Middle Eastern countries are also using their strategic resources—such as oil and military hardware—to deter or counter any potential aggression or interference from outside actors and to maintain a stable and favorable regional order.
Recently, Latin American nations have adopted regional norms and values that reflect the interests and aspirations of the region, such as democracy, human rights, and sovereignty. East Asian nations are using their soft power and cultural influence to shape the identity and behavior of the region and to foster a sense of regional community and solidarity. Southeast Asian nations focus on providing public goods and services that benefit the region as a whole, such as infrastructure, trade, energy, health, education, and security. They are using their resources and capabilities to support regional development and integration in the Mekong Delta and to address common challenges and threats that affect the region and the South China Sea. On the other hand, emerging powers are gaining momentum in global affairs. Some examples of emerging powers are Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, collectively known as the BRICS.
BRICS nations are seeking to increase their representation and voice in the existing global institutions, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. These states have expressed the viewpoint that these institutions are characterized by the influence of the established powers, particularly the United States and its allies, and do not adequately represent the diverse and pluralistic nature of the international community. They have demanded more seats, votes, and influence in these institutions, as well as more transparency and accountability in their decision-making processes. These states are either challenging or balancing the existing global order and the dominance of established powers, especially the West. They have also formed alliances and institutions, such as the BRICS New Development Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, to increase their voice and leverage in global governance.
BRICS is advocating for new and revised norms and values that suit their political systems, such as multilateralism and South-South cooperation. They have often challenged or criticized the norms and values that underpin the current global order, such as Western-led liberalism. They have sought to shape the identity and behavior of the international community by offering alternative or complementary visions and models of global governance. By reforming the existing global institutions and norms, BRICS countries are aiming to enhance their security and prosperity and contribute to global peace and development. However, they also face various challenges and dilemmas in doing so. They also have to deal with their domestic politics and social stability, which may constrain their foreign policy choices and capabilities. Therefore, they need to adopt a pragmatic and flexible approach to reforming existing global institutions and norms. They need to engage in dialogue and compromise with established powers as well as other actors in the international community. They need to seek win-win solutions that benefit both themselves and others.
Balancing their global and regional roles is a major challenge and dilemma for emerging powers or blocs like BRICS. It means that global politics is becoming more complex and dynamic as more actors and issues require cooperation and coordination among the international community. It also means that global politics is becoming more diverse and pluralistic, as some different perspectives and preferences shape the norms and values of the international community. It also means that global politics is becoming more challenging and uncertain as some new opportunities and threats affect the security and prosperity of the international community.
In conclusion, global politics requires a flexible approach that is based on mutual respect, cooperation, and dialogue among all actors, both established and emerging. Therefore, emerging powers have a significant impact on global affairs, both positively and negatively. They offer new opportunities for cooperation and dialogue but also pose new challenges and conflicts. They represent a dynamic and diverse force that is reshaping the global world order in the 21st century.