Beyond the Yellow BRICS Road
What a Multipolar World Really Means for the World
by Anirudh Prasanna, Elliott School of International Affairs (The George Washington University)
“Somewhere Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.”
When asked about India’s controversial non-aligned stance on the Russo-Ukrainian War, Indian Finance Minister S. Jaishankar’s response took the world by storm. Jaishankar may have been the first to say it, but he is definitely not the first to think it. With the advancement of the Global South through unprecedented socioeconomic development, many hope to overthrow the historically American paradigm and replace it with a more global perspective.
Look no further than BRICS, the multinational organization whose meteoric rise became a major topic of discussion during the recent G7 and G20 summits. Originally a term invented by Goldman Sachs to group advancing economies with similar approaches to foreign policy (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), these respective countries recently created a supranational organization that seeks to challenge the western-dominated G7. Not only do these countries meet regularly to discuss policy and strategy, but the establishment of BRICS has led to superior trade talks between member countries. This has effectively led to a bloc that rivals western economic powers like never before. BRICS controls 41% of the global population, 31.5% of the global GDP, and 16% of global trade, and the purchasing power parity of these nations are larger than in G7 nations. With the addition of new BRICS members like Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and Egypt, those numbers will only continue to rise.
These developments have also facilitated the development of different nations into global powers. While countries like India and Brazil have seen significant economic growth over the past few decades, they haven’t seen adequate growth in their international political voice. The establishment of BRICS sought to counter this by uplifting unrepresented nations in the Global South while bringing larger nations to the bargaining table. This is exactly what happened during the recent G20 summit, where Indian Prime Minister and summit host Narendra Modi introduced the expansion of the G20 to involve the African Union, a predominantly ignored but important actor in global politics. India’s ability to convince the western-dominated G20 stemmed from its recent activity within BRICS, indicating that challenges to the international status quo will only further the push for diversity within global governance.
While a multipolar world has its benefits, many experts fear the global impacts it may have, specifically on the United States and its interests. Some analysts believe that while BRICS doesn’t necessarily promote an anti-Western narrative, it pushes key strategic partners such as Saudi Arabia and India to depend on Russia and China more often. Especially with the rise of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the United States’ global dominance is on the decline. This is particularly important due to the track records set by Russia and China. Take, for example, China’s policy in regards to their trade partners. Especially in Latin America and Africa, China has turned a blind eye to rising dictatorships and undemocratic activity. Similarly, Russia’s no-holds-barred approach to the war in Ukraine indicates their willingness to use force even when not necessary. Without aggressive American foreign policy, especially against the two major actors within BRICS, some believe that a slippery slope to global tyranny will ensue.
One of the most concerning things for America is the discussion about international trade using a proprietary BRICS currency. While it is true that no country has the economic depth, international power, and currency reserves of the U.S. Dollar, a BRICS currency poses a huge threat to American soft power. All of the BRICS countries saw economic surpluses over the past few years, and they already use non-dollar currencies in bilateral trade. Implementing a common BRICS currency not only allows for more streamlined trade, but it also leads to de-dollarization, or the lack of dependency on the dollar as a form of reserve. This, along with a rise in aggressive policy to push this currency as the basis of all trade within BRICS-affiliated countries, would significantly weaken the power of dollar diplomacy, which is one of the strongest tools the United States has in its arsenal. The moment the dollar is out of the picture, America loses its chokehold over its debt, international presence, and global soft power.
The impacts on the Dallas/Fort Worth area are no different. As one of the fastest-growing economies in the western hemisphere, Dallas was the 5th largest export market in the United States. More importantly, over 50 billion dollars worth of goods and services were exported to countries in the Global South. As more high-profile businesses seek to move to the DFW area, they will bring foreign investment, international immigrants, and a rise in global soft power as well. On the other hand, Dallas will be reminded of its status as a key city within the United States, as both the government and national businesses will apply pressure to promote the retention of American economic power. DFW must find a middle ground between its commitments, or it will soon see itself struggling to balance international economic dominance and national security interests.
The rise of BRICS and G7 as global competitors has led to debate over what steps to take next, but when devising both national and international strategy, it is important to consider one thing. The yellow brick road to the future of the international political economy is to embrace the fact that the multipolar world is here to stay, whether we like it or not.