CHINA: THE PREMIER BRIC NATION

CHINA: THE PREMIER BRIC NATION

It has only been since 2001 when the utterance of the acronym, ‘BRIC’ was first muttered from the mouth of Goldman Sachs global economist, Jim O’Neill.  Since then, global investors have been watching the four emerging nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China collectively known as ‘BRIC.’   The BRIC group has become so notable that global investors want to get a big piece of the BRIC market landscape which comprises almost 3 billion people and owning 20% of the world’s wealth.

However, some of the ‘BRIC’ watchers fail to realize that the group of four emerging nations represents quite an inequitable grouping.  This comment has to be made because there is one BRIC economy which is the ‘PREMIER BRIC’ economy and holds more global economic clout than the other three BRIC economies combined.    That BRIC nation is China.  Realistically, China is the premier player of BRIC.  For example,   China holds roughly 3.04 trillion in foreign exchange reserves while Russia only holds about 513 billion in reserves (the second highest BRIC reserves).  China holds far more of the ‘veto’ power over the other three nations when initiatives are presented in BRIC meetings.  Clearly, China has the most power from both an economic and political perspectives.

The next comment I have is “Does China need to be a BRIC nation?”  I would probably answer ‘NO.’  China does not need to be a BRIC member because China reached the trade levels comparable to Western nations such as Germany and Japan a few years ago.  China, for example is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.  Neither Brazil nor India has membership status on the UN Security Council.   China enjoys ‘MFN’ status, namely ‘Most Favored Nation’ status in the World Trade Organization.  Russia is trying to become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).   Currently, the G-20 is now watching China’s economic growth not the US or the EU’s growth rate.

The next comment I have is “Why is China a BRIC nation?”  It is important for China to be a BRIC member given China’s increasing global economic power because BRIC membership deflects attention away from China and compliments the other three emerging nations.  China is working hard to deflect any negative feelings and attention by the world toward China away.  Being a BRIC member nation gives China a cover and shield from unwanted and undesirable geopolitical attention.  China knows and realizes that as China becomes stronger globally and economically and the US becomes weaker globally and economically, all eyes, ears, and thoughts will shift to China and away from the US.

My next question is:  “Is China Ready for Negative Attention and Comments?”  Yes, China is always ready for negative attention and comments because China tends to pick or get into fights it knows it can win.  For example, China along with India stood up to the West and supported the ‘developing and emerging nations’ policy stance on climate change in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark.  All the representatives from the developing and other emerging nations then stood up and applauded China’s stance.  China also knows how to keep its political and economic secrets to itself.  That is the political ingredient that makes China successful. The PRC is a master chess player compared to many other countries.

Probably, China also feels it is important to be a BRIC member nation because it can utilize its global economic influence to get more economic and trade concessions from the West for the developing and other emerging nations.  Let’s not forget that China was a ‘Group of 77’ non-aligned nation member and was pro active on North-South Dialogue issues in the 1970s during the Mao era.  It was also one of the founding member countries of the Bandung Conference of 1955 responsible for forging relationships with the newly independent Asian and few African countries during that era.  Good examples of this were its involvement in Africa years before it became an economic superpower.   China is still involved in Africa and has a business and economic presence in 50 African countries.

Back in the 1970s, China helped Tanzania and Zambia build their TanZam railroad to counter dependence on South Africa during its apartheid era.  Angola is a case in point of China using its global economic power and manpower to build Angola.  China is the biggest buyer of Angolan oil.  For example, China has continually protected the interest of Sudan’s government as China sits as a permanent voting member on the UN Security Council.  Being in BRIC gives China a foot hole in the premier economic alliance group known as BRIC while simultaneously participating in global forums with the West.

As a recent public lecturer on “The Emergence of BRIC in the Global Economy,” I would say China is a bit ahead of the other BRIC economies that China needs to focus on taking its nation to an even higher economic level.  China’s deep pockets alone (e.g. $3.04 trillion in foreign exchange reserves) have outpaced BRIC’s second largest foreign exchange reserve economy of Russia by more than 5-fold.

What should the verdict be?   Should China remain in the BRIC alliance? Can China get substantial mileage from the BRIC alliance?  The jury is still deliberating on this issue.

Pamela Seaton is the commentator and writer of this article.  She currently lectures and speaks publicly on BRIC topics.  Pamela can be reached at: pmseaton@informedbeyond.com.

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