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More BRICS in the Game

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By Howard Nemon. In 2001, the term BRIC was conceived by a Goldman Sachs economist as a way to keep track of the largest developing countries in the world – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – whose potential could eclipse the Western economic order by 2050. Goldman Sachs, if you are not sure about it, is the second largest investment institution in the world. To put it succinctly, their mission is to make the rich richer. In 2010, South Africa joined the ranks of these economic powerhouses to make it BRICS.

Apart from initially serving as some form of investment mechanism for Goldman Sachs, the name, along with the group of nations behind it, began to take on a life of its own. Soon these countries began to talk about cooperation, development, and security. And when they admitted another 6 nations to their building bloc this month (Aug 2023), they transitioned from wanting to be just another voice heard at the global economic table to transforming itself into a major player, or even a coalition strong enough to set up their own game. According to Forbes Magazine (who likes to count money), BRICS now represents 3 of the largest economies in the world (with China closing in on No. 1 USA).

Western powers have been in the economic driver’s seat for over 300 years—and they have set up the game to win. Mutual interests, common cultures, and technologies have kept things together. For the BRICS initiative, there are (at least) two critical issues to consider. First, as this burgeoning coalition brings on more and more members, can it find the common interests to maintain its unity and somehow ignore its differences? There are strong territorial, religious, and political dissimilarities among the BRICS nations. China and India keep eyeing each other’s borders, democracies do not sleep well with autocracies, the Sunnis and Shiites continue at each other’s necks, and somehow Russia doesn’t exactly look like a poster child for peaceful co-existence.  

Second, even if they do survive and flourish and achieve some of their goals, will this non-Western (strange term, no doubt) group represent anything different than the exploitative, inequitable, exclusive, and unsustainable global economy we currently have? Besides wanting a bigger piece of the pie (or the whole thing), are there real humanistic and planetary concerns underlying the BRICS nations? On the surface, it truly does not appear to be. However, as developing country after country join their hopes and aspirations with the BRICS bandwagon, perhaps some real grassroots alternatives will emerge.

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