Why BRICS Is No Threat to the Post-war Liberal World Order

Published date01 January 2020
Date01 January 2020
Subject MatterResearch Articles
Threat to the Post-war
Liberal World Order
Mohammed Nuruzzaman1
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has emerged as a powerful
economic group in the global economy and politics, apparently posing threats to
the survival of the post-war liberal world order. Its member states (Brazil, Russia,
India, China and South Africa) are seeking to democratize the post-war liberal
world order to increase their shares of voting power in the decision-making
processes of the Bretton Woods institutions and thus curb the USA’s dominance
over global economic and financial architecture and eventually overhaul the
US-led liberal world order. Contrary to the fear of many Western policymakers
and analysts, this article contends that BRICS poses no credible threats to the
US-led post-war order. The BRICS group’s potential to challenge or threaten
the US-led world order is seriously undermined by the internal make-up of
the group, its political and ideological heterogeneity, its incapacity to develop a
collective world order vision salable to the wider international community and
the lack of strong convergence in foreign policy goals and preferences.
BRICS, shift in the global economy, post-war world order, US dominance,
alternative world order
The recent rise of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in the
global economy and politics has created some sense of acute fear in the West.
Many policymakers and academics in Europe and North America view this new
group of some powerful emerging economies as a major challenge or even as a
Research Article
1 Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Gulf University for Science and Technology, West
Mishref, Kuwait.
Corresponding author:
Mohammed Nuruzzaman, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Gulf University for Science
and Technology, West Mishref, Kuwait.
E-mail: nuruzzaman.m@gust.edu.kw
International Studies
57(1) 51–66, 2020
2019 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0020881719884449
52 International Studies 57(1)
threat to the US-dominated international order (Armijo & Roberts, 2014; Layne,
2017, 2018; Smith, 2015). The threat assumed a new dimension after the success-
ful launch of two multilateral financial institutions—the Asian Infrastructure
Investment Bank (AIIB) in 2015 and the BRICS Bank, what is officially called
the New Development Bank (NDB), in 2016. The Barack Obama administration
viewed the AIIB as China’s new design to promote its geopolitical influence and
leadership to outpace the USA’s primacy in Asia (The New York Times, 2014).
President Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew expressed the concern that the
AIIB was threatening the USA’s ‘international credibility and influence’ (Financial
Times, 2015). The official American views on BRICS are also echoed by some
Asian analysts. Jiang (2015, p. 3), for example, asserts that getting rid of the West-
dominated international order is the goal of BRICS, both in terms of writing new
rules as well as amending old ones of the post-1945 world order. In a similar tone,
Liu (2016, p. 451) emphasizes the promotion of a collective voice and bargaining
power to democratize the US-led world order, and Xiao (2016, p. 436) argues for
reforming the decision-making processes of the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) to curb US power and influence.
Arguing from an opposite angle, Cox (2012) makes the point that the fear of a
steep decline of the West and the USA is a misplaced fear. There is a shift in the
global economy, Cox notes, but the USA and its Western allies have had structural
advantages over China and other BRICS members. He rules out the possibility of
a ‘new Asian century’, let alone a BRICS-led global order. Brutsch and Papa
(2013) investigate the ‘associational dynamics and practices’ of BRICS from a
bargaining coalition and ‘imagined’ communities perspective and find that
BRICS’ coalitional cohesion and community-formation efforts fall short of mak-
ing it a strong group to curb US dominance in the post-war global order. They
conclude that BRICS may turn into a ‘geopolitical fad’ in the absence of a coher-
ent strategy to capitalize on their collective strengths to check the USA’s global
ascendancy. Thakur (2014) probes the potential of BRICS to develop a common
platform involving the developing countries of the South and finds that the group’s
interests, capacity and policy preferences sharply differ from those of the devel-
oping countries. He concludes that BRICS countries are emerging as a powerful
economic grouping but their graduation into a countervailing political alternative
is unclear. Interestingly, Cox, Brütsch and Papa, and Thakur published their arti-
cles before the AIIB and the NDB were launched. Such developments have con-
siderably recast the global economy as America’s major European allies are also
members of the AIIB, and most Eurasian and African countries are also participat-
ing in China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, formally instituted in May 2017. There
is a clear need to re-examine the potential of BRICS to challenge the post-war
liberal order.
This article accordingly seeks to investigate what BRICS tells us about the
possibility and potential of an alternative world order. It primarily examines the
manifold problems of BRICS to recreate a new world order and takes the position
that BRICS is a potential challenger but no serious threat to the existing liberal
world order. The BRICS countries, in their attempts to create new spaces for
themselves in the management of the global economic and financial systems, are

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