The Illusion of Convergence—Russia, China, and the BRICS

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Series Details Number 92
Publication Date March 2016
ISBN 978-2-36567-491-1
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Two narratives have dominated discussion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The first asserts that this group of countries has become a major force in 21st century international politics,  highlighting the shift of global power from the West. The second, by contrast, sees the BRICS as a charade, marked by the gulf between extravagant rhetoric and minimal achievement. The debate could scarcely be more polarized. Yet on one point there is convergence: the key to the viability of the BRICS framework lies in effective interaction between its two principal players, Russia and China.

Moscow and Beijing have assiduously promoted an image of likemindedness within the BRICS. But such efforts can hardly mask significant differences in attitudes and approach. President Putin identifies the BRICS as the foundation of a non-Western multipolar order in which Russia plays a central role. For the Chinese, however, it is a sideshow – only one among many instruments for advancing their interests in Eurasia and beyond. These contrasting perspectives severely limit the potential of the BRICS to offer an alternative model of global governance or act as an effective engine of international development. While the BRICS will remain part of the international landscape over the next few years, its relevance will come under increasing question.

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