BRICS, which consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, has been criticized by Western pundits who claim that the group is on the verge of becoming subservient to China. These critics argue that China dominates the economic clout and influence within BRICS, and that Beijing is using the group as a proxy in its rivalry with the United States.
However, such commentary fails to grasp the true nature and goals of BRICS. The group is not about aligning with a particular superpower or engaging in ideological or military confrontations. Instead, BRICS aims to create a multipolar environment that allows its member countries to pursue their own development agenda independently, without being bound by the limitations and terms imposed by the West.
To fully understand the significance of BRICS, it is crucial to recognize that the development of a nation is a complex and multifaceted process. It is oversimplistic to blame the countries of the Global South for their poverty or lack of progress, as some right-wing narratives suggest. The allocation of global capital and markets has been historically dominated by a select group of Western countries, who acquired their wealthy status through violence and exploitation. As such, they have rigged the system to ensure that their own wealth and power remain concentrated within their borders.
Without access to capital and markets, it is difficult for countries in the Global South to advance and develop on their own terms. Some nations, like South Korea, achieved economic success by aligning themselves with the United States, but this often came at the expense of compromising their national sovereignty and strategic autonomy. On the other hand, countries that choose to challenge the Western order, like Iran, face the suppression of their development efforts as they are denied access to capital and export markets.
The global landscape is now changing, with China’s rise as a major economic and political power. This shift has created a new opportunity for the countries of the Global South to forge their own path towards economic development, outside the orbit of Western domination. Initiatives like China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have provided an alternative avenue for these nations to pursue economic growth.
The increasing strategic significance of BRICS lies in its ability to bring together countries from the Global South to collaborate and shape an economy of the future that is not dominated by the West. Contrary to the portrayal of BRICS as a “China-led bloc,” the group operates on the principles of non-alignment and cooperation. It is not about choosing sides between China and the West, but about establishing a multipolar environment that counters the Western dominance currently at play.
While the Financial Times article points out Brazil’s trade ties and India’s disputes with China as contradictions within BRICS, this perspective overlooks the bigger picture. BRICS is not an “either/or” choice, but a collective effort to challenge the prevailing Western-dominated institutions and create more equitable global arrangements.
China, as a member of BRICS, is not against ties with the West per se, but rather opposes the United States’ attempts to undermine its relationships. Unlike zero-sum alliances like NATO, which serve the strategic interests of the US and advance an ideological agenda, BRICS focuses on pragmatic and practical cooperation. This approach has garnered interest from several nations seeking an alternative to Western-dominated institutions.
Therefore, BRICS should not be misunderstood as a bloc aiming to become China’s vassal. Instead, it is a platform for countries in the Global South to assert their own development aspirations and overcome the barriers imposed by Western dominance. It represents a significant shift in the global power dynamics and offers hope for a more balanced and inclusive international order.