The Global South’s BRICS Play Should Not Be Dismissed

On August 22, South Africa will host the next BRICS summit—bringing together leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—at a time of acute tensions between the United States and its great power rivals China and Russia. But another context for the meeting is the increased salience of the Global South, most sharply revealed by the nuanced reactions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the Ukraine war.

The multiple failures of the US-led world order to substantially support two core requirements of Global South states—economic development and safeguarding sovereignty—are creating a demand for alternative structures for ordering the world. The BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are two major responses to these failures. They are bringing the East and the South together in rooms in which Washington and its core allies are not exactly welcome—even when they invite themselves.

BRICS is often talked about in one of two ways. Some observers dismiss its relevance, even calling for its dissolution. Others take a romantic view of the BRICS being a revival of the hoary days of Southern solidarity—Bandung in the 1950s or the 1970s New International Economic Order. Neither is an accurate picture of what is really happening.

The current moment appears to be the next fork in the road for BRICS, after its foundational years of 2009–10 and the creation of its development finance entity (the New Development Bank) in 2015. Two key items are on the August summit agenda—first, finding a way to trade and invest with one another by circumventing the use of the US dollar and second, admitting new states to the club.

Read the full piece in The Nation.