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The Brics have nothing holding them together

The leaders of (l-r) Brazil, China, South Africa and India, and the foreign minister of Russia, in Johannesburg yesterday. Gianluigi Guercia/Getty

Geopolitical types love to talk about how the Brics states, who met this week in Johannesburg, are becoming an “increasingly powerful counterweight” to Western pre-eminence, says Deniz Yücel in Die Welt. The five-country bloc – comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – now accounts for 31.5% of the global economy, slightly more than the G7, and contains 40% of the world’s population to the G7’s 10%. Just this morning, the group invited six nations – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – to become new members.

But while the countries involved might enjoy meeting up to moan vaguely about Western dominance, aside from that – and a certain laissez-faire attitude to human rights – there is no “common political-ideological model” that binds them together. Any talk of their combined financial firepower hides a growing imbalance: China and India’s impressive growth is countered by the lagging economies of the other three countries. And for all that China likes to be seen as the spokesman for “global anti-imperialism”, its bloc-mates are all too aware of Beijing’s habit of binding weaker countries to it through the economic imperialism of debt. The West has its internal disagreements, of course. But compared to the deep fissures between the Brics, resolving our differences is “a piece of cake”.

🌏🧱 “It’s always a stretch when you launch something – a policy, institution, group or club – just because somebody came up with a great acronym,” says Andreas Kluth in Bloomberg. And that’s exactly what happened with Brics. Jim O’Neill, an economist at Goldman Sachs, coined the term in 2001, when he needed a “snappy moniker” for several markets that looked promising for investors, “but otherwise had nothing obvious in common”.