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1:26 AM ET
March 4, 2011
I am still not at all
I am still not at all convinced as to whether BRIC (or BRICS) is actually becoming a cohesive group or if it is anything more than developing states voting in their own interests, which happen to coincide. Of the five, three are going through a cold peace and the other two are on different continents with different political necessities. Of course, all that isn't even taking into account the fact that it's debatable whether or not Russia really deserves a spot.
8:34 AM ET
BRIC will never be more than just a neat abbreviation, they don't share mutual interests more than with any major western power.
11:22 AM ET
Skeptical of the BRICs
I think that most of the hype about the rise of the BRICs is more about paranoia than a fundamental threat that these countries pose to the Western-dominated geopolitical order. Let's examine the facts:
Russia is little more than a police state with a military-petroleum complex. It's been hit harder than most Western countries by the recent recession (its economy has shrunk as a result of the recession), and an aging, declining population only confound the problems. An overdependence on two resources, oil and natural gas, are never good for long-term economic growth. And Russia's willingness to bully users of those commodities will only encourage them to seek alternatives.
The Chinese economy appears to be overheating, and a series of financial bubbles have been forming (most notably in real estate) that, when they burst, will cause catastrophic harm to the country's economy and growth. China is also facing some serious demographic and environmental challenges, has huge income inequality (which inhibits growth as economies mature), and is facing growing internal dissent. Little reported is that China has to quell something on the order of 100,000 protests each year around the country. This in what is, like Russia, a police state. As more Chinese enter the middle class, the demand for better political representation, civil rights, and a more robust civil society will divert much of the attention of the Communist Party away from the economy and foreign affairs. I think this could potentially lead to the potential fracturing, in some way or another, of the Chinese state. I do not necessarily believe that China will break apart into many states, simply that the hold that Beijing has on the rest of the country will be severely compromised, and central planning, and thus state-controlled capitalism (the so-called "China Model") will become untenable. It's also important to note that the most highly advanced, and thus most productive and profitable economies, lie in the most open societies, and I don't believe this is mere coincidence. Singapore is perhaps the exception to the rule, but it is still far more open than China. If China wants to enter the realm of technologically advanced economies, it will have to open up.
Unlike Russia and China, India is a democracy with an open and vibrant civil society. The problem is that India also has some serious income inequality, widespread corruption, a still overly-intrusive regulatory environment that both inhibits domestic entrepreneurship and FDI, downright awful infrastructure (it's literally crumbling), and domestic unrest. It also lacks a strong manufacturing sector, and relies too heavily on outsourcing from wealthy countries, primarily in the tech sector. Poor relations with Pakistan are a problem as well, and as India's wealth, and thus the quality and capabilities of its military grow, Pakistan, unable to keep up, will be forced to turn more and more to asymmetric warfare, which will scare off investors and dampen growth. There are also a series of internal rebellions, most notably those in the center of the country staged by the Naxalites, that threaten India's economy. And in a country of over a billion people who come from many different regions, religions, and backgrounds, the necessary reforms that are required to ensure the future growth and stability of the Indian state will at best be extremely slow going and at worst, won't happen at all.
Brazil, in my mind at least, has the brightest future of the BRIC countries. It's blessed with a plethora of natural resources, a now thriving democracy that is beginning to pay dividends in the development of its human capital, and few regional competitors that it must divert attention and resources to. Brazil has rampant income inequality, but it has done well in addressing this issue, especially under Lula, and I expect those reforms to continue. Its economy is still a bit dependent on agricultural and oil exports, but there are strong signs that show that its manufacturing and services sectors are developing well. It still has a long way to go, and there will be many bumps on the road to prosperity, but Brazil likely won't face many of the problems that plague Russia, China, and India.
The author, however, suggests that these countries will all come to be major players (either together or separately) on the international stage as the result of their growing economic clout. I've explained above why I doubt that will happen with Russia, China and India. In the case of Brazil, it has a couple of disadvantages worth noting. First, its location in the southern hemisphere, very far away from the big players in North America, Europe, and East Asia, will make power projection beyond South America and parts of Africa difficult. Second, Brazil lies relatively far away from the Pacific Ocean. The Amazon is very difficult go pass through via rail or truck, and alternative overland routes will have to pass through the Andes, which is equally, if not more challenging. Shipping routes, either through the Panama Canal or around Cape Horn are lengthy and either costly or risky. If they do create an overland route, they'll depend on ports in other countries to ship out their exports, which is risky in and of itself. The US, in comparison, has easy access to the world's two busiest oceans, and easily ships out and in goods from around the world. This guarantees both steadier economic growth as well as global power projection.
I could get into a more geopolitical discussion and explain why China, Russia, and India are regional competitors who play against one another (and limit their global power), which is why the likelihood of them coordinating on big political issues is low, but I think I've occupied enough space here to begin with.
3:12 PM ET
I'd say that China, Russia
I'd say that China, Russia and India will be strong simply by virtue of being in the right locations and being stronger than most of the other actors in those locations, but I really can't see those three allying with each other for anything short of the U.S going on a world domination spree*.
*Please, no remarks about the U.S doing that right now. That sort of thing devolves into petty nationalism.
3:39 PM ET
Brazil and India have bright,
Brazil and India have bright, free, democratic, affluent futures ahead in the long term. Especially Brazil. Though I think India will become a bigger player militarily. However, that said, India particularly has more in common with the US then the other BRIC states, Brazil has interests that will ultimately keep it from jumping into Russian and Chinese arms, and China and India are NOT good partners, and neither are Russia and China. So, while BRIC is a great term for identifying rising powers, I think only 2 or so will become real powers, while the rest fade ...and no, BRIC is not a strategic alliance or a bloc. These countries are all already so intimately tied economically with the US and the EU that it would be unwise for them to form some type of new bloc. Instead, I feel that they will seek acceptance into the mainstream. the smart ones anyways.
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