The BRICs Lack Political Cohesion

Joseph Nye, the innovator of the term “soft power,” has published an op/ed casting some doubts on the uncomplicated rise of the Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) bloc.  Several of these countries still face a number of economic problems, while politically, they often compete and face conflicting agendas (especially with regard to the Chinese currency issue).  Russia is again the odd man out, and not just because its economy is singular commodity play, but because, as Anders Åslund has argued, they are much more advanced in many respects.  Nevertheless, I’m sure Lula had a good time at the Kremlin yesterday before heading to Iran.

While a BRICs meeting may be convenient for coordinating some short-term diplomatic tactics, the term lumps together disparate countries that have deep divisions. It makes little sense to include Russia, a former superpower, with three developing economies. Of the four members, Russia has the smallest and most literate population and a much higher per capita income, but, more importantly, many observers believe that Russia is declining while the other three are rising in power resources. (…)

So, how seriously should analysts take the term BRIC? As an indicator of economic opportunity, they should welcome it, though it would make more sense if Indonesia replaced Russia. In political terms, China, India, and Russia are competitors for power in Asia, and Brazil and India have been hurt by China’s undervalued currency. Thus, BRIC is not likely to become a serious political organization of like-minded states.