The BRICS Alliance Makes No Sense at All. So What?

How It Works
July 15 2014 11:43 AM

The BRICS Alliance Makes No Sense at All. So What?

452181016-brazilian-president-dilma-rousseff-welcomes-indian-pm
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi upon his arrival to the sixth BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, on July 15, 2014.

Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

The leaders of the BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—are meeting for their sixth annual summit in Fortaleza, Brazil (in case you were wondering what Vladimir Putin was doing at the World Cup final).

The acronym BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs analyst Jim O’Neill in 2001 to describe the emerging market powers. (South Africa wasn’t included in the original analysis.) Leaders of the countries took a shine to the idea and the first BRIC summit was held in Russia in 2009. South Africa was added to the club in 2011.

Advertisement

As I noted last year, the BRICS countries don’t actually make a whole lot of sense as a group. On the new Indian news site Scroll, Rohan Venkataramakrishnan shares “10 charts that prove the BRICS nations have little in common.” Indeed, the BRICS countries differ wildly in terms of political system, levels of economic growth, current development indicators, culture, and demographics. And treating them as if they’re the only game in town in terms of large developing economies ignores important developments in countries ranging from Mexico to Nigeria to Turkey to Indonesia. Even O’Neill isn’t that enthusiastic about the designation anymore.   

All the same, while the idea of a key international grouping based on a now-outdated 13-year-old Goldman Sachs analysis is a little strange, the BRICS are here to stay, and playing an increasingly prominent role.

At this year’s summit, the big news is the creation of a new development bank, to serve as an alternative to Western-dominated institutions like the World Bank. The summit is also one of the first big international appearances for new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and his interactions with Xi Jinping of China will be closely watched in light of ongoing border disputes.

The BRICS are fast becoming one of the world’s more important and closelywatched multilateral institutions. Its membership may not make any sense, but it’s hardly alone on that score. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 29 2014 10:00 PM “Everything Must Change in Italy” An interview with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 29 2014 1:52 PM Do Not Fear California’s New Affirmative Consent Law
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 29 2014 12:01 PM This Is Your MOM’s Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.