By: Kashif Anwar, Research Analyst, GSDN
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 measures its national power and strength. Over the years, many nations have come together to achieve their shared objective and interest and have expanded their grouping despite such groups are vital or relevant today. NATO fits into such a description. In the paper, the analysis will be done on G7 and its challenger BRICS who has started to undermine the G7 reach, power and influence in the global geopolitics.
On June 16, 2009 BRIC (Brazil Russia, India and China) was formed and addition of South Africa in 2011 established BRICS, a group of emerging economies who are working to instate their world economic and trade systems. As data concerning to 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, as BRICS contribution to global GDP (31.5%) has surpassed G7 contribution (30.7%) and nearly accounts 1/3 of the world economic activity, it has become a voice of the developing nations worldwide.
The 2023 BRICS Summit was held in South Africa between August 22-24, 2023 under ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism’ theme. BRICS has aimed to reshape the political economic landscape to benefit themselves and shape the global political and economic order to suit their vested and shared interest. The recent rise of BRICS and developments like the de-dollarisation, drive to expand BRICS and China’s push to oust G7 and make BRICS as 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 argued that 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 G7 contribution to global GDP and become significant and a strategic competitor and rival to the G7. The 2023 BRICS summit has become the biggest summit for the group in its history as it invited 69 state heads highlighting its rise and showcasing its growing value worldwide and global acceptance.
As BRICS mechanism works to promote peace, security, development and cooperation to establish a fair and equitable world, today, attracted by giving an alternative to other nations to join the group. With group accounts for 41% of the globe population, 30% of the land area, 31.5% of global GDP and 16% of international trade, BRICS, today, no longer can be ignored by other nations. While promoting cooperation, economic growth and development and enriching people-to-people contact being BRICS’ three pillars and since 2009 has worked and established more than 30 cooperation among themselves and like-minded nations. With BRICS combined worth equals the US economy, the group has become a voice for the global south (developing countries) and is pushing to reshape the global order and reform institutions like the UN, WHO, WTO, IMF etc. Further, despite ongoing border dispute between India and China, cooperation between both countries in BRICS forum has remained and the Beijing Declaration 2022 showcases the group’s intent to address 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 its global acceptance have given ample scope to China to go past US in coming times. In such a scenario, growing significance of BRICS and becoming a strategic rival to G7 has become the centre of focus for other developing nations to align with the group to secure their interest.
BRICS transforming itself from a non-aligned club for economic interest of developing nations into a political force which openly challenges the West has yet to become a reality, and expansion of BRICS and inclusion of six countries will change the direction of the group and its approach towards global geopolitics. As South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa argues the expansion of BRICS will only represent diverse group of nations sharing a common desire and such approach is supported by India, Russia, China and Brazil. The 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 will enhance the scope of BRICS, as presence of large oil reserves in such countries and their large share in 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 has begun to flex its muscles. BRICS provides China an opportunity to expand its reach and its existing ties with BRICS. New members needs to be carefully looked upon as it could impact the working and functioning of the bloc in coming years.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speech during the summit stated that as China looks for expansion of BRICS, he emphasised China’s aversion to hegemonism and bloc confrontation and wished for a more equitable international order. Although, China and Russia look upon the bloc as a counter to the Western dominance and oust G7 as a global leader. Thus use of local currency for trade by BRICS members and push to de-dollarise 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 alternative and strategic rival to G7, a shift has been witnessed in the global geopolitics post Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. As anti-west narrative and its acceptance have gained a momentum to move away from US-led order viewed in push for local currency to de-dollarisation the global economy. As the invasion united the West against Russia but distant 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 bloc like BRICS has taken a centre stage in global geopolitics. 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 its trade with BRICS (7%) and such aspects reflect also 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 its disposal as global acceptance of dollar provide G7 better scope to compete with BRICS. The inclusion of new members and launch of BRICS currency in near future will empower BRICS. Being politically appealing to many countries, in the coming times, with new members, BRICS will become strategically vital and alternative to G7 to those countries who’re willing to bandwagon with the rise of global south and BRICS.
This raises a valid question that if BRICS has to remain relevant in global geopolitics in the coming decades, the members (existing and new one) 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 bloc voice allowing them to venture in a new domain like the outer space, artificial intelligence etc. However, bloc members should strengthen trade with each other, strengthen their internal economy, National Development Bank and set-up a meditation process which will project the bloc as a serious player with intent to address global issues and threats.
Further, BRICS should set-up new institutions – transforming idea 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 Chinese-led initiative like the GDI and Global Security Initiative coupled with BRICS summit highlights the bloc is moving in this direction. However, other BRICS members need to address such a scenario and ensure to better the existing global order so that BRICS doesn’t become another SCO which act as a vehicle for China to challenge the existing global norms.