BRICS needs a new acronym

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) agreed to welcome six new members at their summit in Johannesburg last week (22-24 August).

The expansion debate dominated proceedings, with China preferring a rapid expansion, while India and Brazil wanted a more incremental approach.

Ultimately China, accounting for around 70% of total BRICS GDP, won the day: by the summit’s end, Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the UAE had received invitations to join the BRICS in 2024.

Intrigue’s take: There are so many competing interests at play here:

  • 🇨🇳 China sees BRICS as a way to project inevitability behind its rise
  • 🇧🇷 Brazil is hedging its bets, but is mindful of China pushing too far
  • Ditto for 🇮🇳 India, which presumably accepted new members knowing they’d limit the bloc’s unity and effectiveness for China
  • 🇷🇺 Russia sees BRICS expansion as a way to reduce its own isolation, and
  • 🇿🇦 South Africa wins status by hosting a high-profile summit.

But after years of these summits, the BRICS are still searching for a coherent mission, a common purpose, and a meaningful track record. So even as it gets bigger, the BRICS bloc doesn’t appear to be getting any stronger.

Also worth noting:

  • In announcing the expansion, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the original members had “consensus on the first phase of this expansion process, and further phases will follow.”
  • The newly invited BRICS members have a combined GDP of around $3T (3% of global GDP).
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