Neelima A Research Associate at CPPR, comments on the news ‘BRICS Expansion: Multipolarity Will Ensure Bloc Does Not Become China-Led Order, Experts Say’. The news was published in International Business Times on 28th of August, 2023.


  • Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been invited to join
  • The new admissions to the BRICS bloc will be welcomed in January 2024
  • The expansion could pave the way for a multipolar order instead of a China-led order

The symbolic power of BRICS is growing as the bloc sees its first expansion in more than a decade, with some of the world’s top energy suppliers being part of the new admission. Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been invited to join the current five members—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which will welcome the new nations in January 2024. Experts say even though China is the most dominant player in the BRICS and has aggressively pushed for the group’s expansion, it is unlikely a Beijing-led order would take shape. The bloc was initially formed in 2009 as a four-member group that included Brazil, Russia, India and China. The group saw its first expansion in 2010 to admit South Africa. The BRICS bloc was seen as a solution to wean the world off Western dominance and a possible balance to G7.

The term BRICS was coined by former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill about two decades ago to describe key emerging markets of the world at the time. However, the nations have put up varying performances since then. In the list of the world’s largest economies, China firmly sits at no. 2, while India, growing at a fast pace, seeks to move from no. 5 to no. 3 by the end of this decade. “Brazil and Russia account for around the same share of global GDP as they did in 2001, and South Africa is not even the largest economy in Africa (Nigeria has surpassed it),” O’Neill said in a recent report. “In nominal terms, [China’s] GDP is more than three times larger than Japan and Germany, and around 75% the size of the U.S.,” he wrote. Much like Brazil and Russia, other G7 members like Italy and Japan have also barely registered any growth for many years, while the U.S. continues to exert dominance, O’Neill noted. “Just as China dominates the BRICS by dint of being twice the size of all the others combined, so the U.S. is now bigger than the rest of the G7 combined,” he wrote. “America and China dominate their respective groups even more than they did in the past.” The recent BRICS inclusion of six more nations from different regions suggests better geographical representation and greater alliances within the global south.

As of 2023, the BRICS coalition constitutes 32.1% of the global GDP. The admission of new members has augmented the group, now encompassing six out of the world’s top ten energy suppliers. Additionally, BRICS has achieved a broader geographical representation by including nations from various regions such as South America, South Africa, West Asia, and Asia, thereby forming a more inclusive alliance of nations from the global south.

Neelima A, Research Associate at Centre for Public Policy Research, told International Business Times.

Some of the countries invited to BRICS may agree with some of China and Russia’s anti-West grumbling, but would hesitate to be a part of a China-led order, explained Chirayu Thakkar, a PhD candidate jointly with the National University of Singapore and King’s College London.

“China undoubtedly remains the strongest player in BRICS, but the organisation has its own multipolarity. Beijing is still not in a position to dictate the terms. For instance, look at Beijing’s desire to include Pakistan. It is not able to move ahead against India’s wish,” Thakkar told IBT. “Having said that, China is trying to push for BRICS expansion, primarily targeting those countries that are disgruntled with the West and the Western-led order. Those countries are happy to join at the moment, as it allows them to play both sides. Nonetheless, it would be unwise to assume that these countries are eager to be a part of the China-led order.”

Countries of the global south have warily watched the backfiring of big Chinese investments in nations like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which have had their economic woes exacerbated with Beijing’s interference. Hence, “it is always better for smaller and middle powers to have a multipolar order that they can navigate” and “imprudent for them to replace one hegemon with another,” he added. Apart from China, India and Russia also hold significant value within BRICS and maintain positive relations with the bloc’s new admissions. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had also expressed their support for more countries joining the bloc.

The decision to expand BRICS was not driven solely by China; existing members such as Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa have also shown support for the same,” Neelima said. “India’s stance on expansion has been constructive – it advocates for consensus and specific criteria for admitting new members – and the country has warmly welcomed the inclusion of new members.”

Another factor that could deter Chinese hegemony is India’s ties with the U.S.

“India has always favored a ‘consensus-based model’ for such major decisions. Both the Indian Minister of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s speech after the entry of new members reiterated this (while also reiterating India’s general support for expansion). It was this approach that created a last-minute hurdle for the decision, as PM Modi raised concerns about including states who are under Western sanctions (read: Iran). India’s concerns are justified. It maintains a fine balance while dealing with states, which are actively hostile to the United States and the West,” Bashir Ali Abbas, Research Associate with Council for Strategic and Defense Research, told IBT.

“India’s partnership with Iran includes developing the Chabahar port, which it is committed to. But when the Iran-US dyad becomes more inflammatory, India has conceded to the West in the past – such as cutting off Iranian oil imports after the Trump administration’s CAATSA sanctions,” he added. “Now, with Iran in the BRICS, one wonders if India shall arguably have to make more uncomfortable choices on key decisions should the Iran-US conflict become more intense (coupled with China’s rise), especially in a consensus-based model.”

Neelima believes India will continue maintaining positive relations with the U.S. but “tactfully navigate diplomatic affairs and refrain from assuming the role of an intermediary between BRICS and the US, as its overarching strategy remains centered on enhancing the capabilities of nations in the global south.”

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

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