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The BRICS: Beyond The Hype

By  Daniel Chardell, The National Interest, 14 July 2015

The BRICS grouping—comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—is as contentious as it is misunderstood. Skeptics dismiss the BRICS out of hand, arguing that the coalition is all talk and no action. Enthusiasts, on the other hand, maintain that the BRICS portend a new global pecking order—one in which the emerging economies, led by China, will challenge and eventually overtake a West in decline. More sober analysis is hard to come by.

Last week’s summit of BRICS leaders in the Russian city of Ufa offers a timely opportunity to assess what the BRICS are, what they are not, and why it’s time for the United States to begin taking them—and the grievances they represent—seriously.

The BRICS grouping can best be understood as a platform to express dissatisfaction with shortcomings in the system of global governance, not a vehicle to overturn the system itself. In fact, the BRICS are more status quo than they’d like to admit. Their joint declarations may have a revolutionary tinge, but the BRICS are revisionist more in rhetoric than in reality. Far from seeking to upend the existing world order, these five countries have a vested interest in broadly preserving the institutions that have enabled their prosperous rise, while selectively reforming those areas where they are denied privilege and influence commensurate with their growing economic weight.