Falling BRICS

The end of an era: Goldman Sachs—whose 2001 report coined the term and set off more than a decade of feverish speculation about the decline of Western economic dominance—has dropped its BRICS portfolio. Quartz reports:

The handy acronym BRIC made its debut in a 2001 report by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, when the four nations it referred to made up just 8% of the world’s total economy. For more than a decade since, the theory that Brazil, Russia, India, China (and later South Africa) should be treated as a linked economic force representing the rise of emerging markets has driven everything from the creation of new financial institutions to billions of dollars in investment decisions from fund managers and consumer companies.

So the news that Goldman Sachs quietly shut its BRICS investment fund last month, merging the over $100 billion in assets-under-management fund with a larger emerging market one, marks what Bloomberg calls “the end of an era.”

The utility of grouping Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa together under a single acronym has always been quite limited, no matter how easily it rolls off the tongue. These are wildly different countries that span four continents, speak different languages, and have distinct cultures, histories, and political systems. In recent years, it’s become increasingly clear that these countries don’t have that much in common, and that their economies will not grow to the sky (or even grow meaningfully at all, depending on which BRIC we mean). China is still trying to claw its way out of a serious slowdown, Moody’s recently downgraded Brazil after years of stagnation, and Russia’s economy is in deep trouble.

We hope that over the long run, BRIC countries liberalize and continue to grow. This would be good for American foreign policy and global stability in the long term. But convenient narratives about the decline of the West and the rise of the rest should always be taken with a grain of salt.

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