The BRICS: Challengers to the Global Status
In this proposal, what I really want to do is predict what role the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, China, and India) will play in the international system over the next century based mostly on secondary sources. It is based on realist premises that in the decades ahead the international system will continue to be in a state of ‘anarchy’. Economically, China and India alone are likely to surpass the U.S. economically by 2050, although they are also likely to become rivals in Asia rather than allies. I think that the world system will continue to evolve into an increasingly multipolar direction, with the Great Powers seeking a balance in the Asia-Pacific region. This region is rapidly becoming the new centre of global capitalism, and the future strategic (and of course the economic) balance of power will be decided there.
My main research question is really an attempt to predict the role the BRIC countries will play in the international capitalist system over the next century, relying mainly on secondary sources. I have provided a list of these in the references and will refer to them in this proposal at least insofar as attempting to explain the main ideas I derived from them for making my predictions. Obviously this thesis will have to combine theories of realism and global capitalism, and address economics and security. Economically, I do think that the BRIC countries of Brazil, China, India and Russia are likely to surpass the U.S. by 2050, but I am also of the opinion that the post-1945 international system in which the U.S. was the hegemonic capitalist power has been in decline for quite some time. China alone is already on track to surpass the U.S. and the European Union in overall GNP and GDP by 2050, if not GDP per capita, and India will probably not be far behind (Ikenberry 2008). Of all the Asian states, only India is has the potential to attain great power status in the 21st Century that will rival the Chinese (Ganguly and Pordesi. 2007 and Dickson 2007).
Realism, Security and Global Capitalism
I am not going to assert that global capitalism will suffer a major breakdown and collapse or that any of the great powers will break with the system and set up independent economic blocs. For the last thirty years, though, capitalism has meant the free trade and laissez faire system of the Washington Consensus, which of course is hardly a new ideology (Friedman 2005). These 19th Century ideas may have been discredited by the recent depression, making the more authoritarian capitalist models of Russia and China more appealing that than neoliberalism. Neither Russia nor China are really likely to become democracies, but will continue to have authoritarian governments with capitalist economic systems (Dickson 2005). I am also sceptical of the theory that the capitalist system necessarily becomes more liberal or democratic with higher levels of economic development, since history shows that capitalism can function well enough under authoritarian regimes, as in Russia and China (Olson 1993). All the BRIC nations will remain strongly tied to the global capitalist system, but they will also have to address their own internal problems of extreme poverty and mal-distribution of wealth (World Bank 2011). Global capitalism will therefore continue to expand in this century, along with the new developments in computers, robots, biotechnology, genetic engineering and communications technology that have fuelled its rise all along (Ohmae 2005).
I do not expect that there will be any serious alternative to global capitalism in the foreseeable future, although that system can operate in many forms, whether liberal, fascist, laissez faire or social democratic. As recent events have shown yet again, the more unregulated and free market types of capitalism are far too prone to instability, speculative booms and crashes (Hetzel 2008). This is one reason why 21st Century capitalism may turn out to resemble the Keynesian and social democratic type that was dominant in 1945-70 rather than the 19th Century laissez faire version (Skidelsky 2010 and Clarke 2009). Unregulated, laissez faire capitalism on a global scale also has too many features of injustice, exploitation and inequality to ever become a truly popular system (Klein 2009, Scheper-Hughes 2005, Shiva 2004, and Shiva and Hulla-Bhar 2004).
Conclusions about the Future Multipolar World Order
I predict that the international order will increasingly become multipolar, and that the democratic capitalist countries (the U.S., India and Brazil) may form a bloc against the authoritarian capitalist states of Russia and China. I also believe that in practice, BRIC really means China, India and Brazil since Russia is also a declining power whose main function is to supply oil and other raw materials (Ikenberry 2008).I will not predict that the multipolar system will inevitably lead to another world war, especially given that three of the BRIC countries are already declared nuclear powers. I doubt that any confrontations between the major players in Asia will result in another world war, or even in a revival of the Cold War, and for the sake of the world it would be much better for all concerned to avert a major conflict between nuclear-armed states. There are also obstacles to the rise of China and India to possible superpower status, just as the relative or absolute decline of the United States is not inevitable (Varshney 2007).
To the extent that nation-states still have the power to decide these matters, and the current recession indicates that states still retain considerable autonomy in economic policy rather than simply existing as the playthings of capitalists and ‘the markets’, they will not choose the type of capitalism that seems most vulnerable to severe recessions and depressions that have a negative impact on all countries in the world system (Li 2010).In time, a global capitalist class is bound to develop and along with it new international institutions that will replace the current ‘anarchy’ of the world system and all the classical Great Power rivalries. There are already signs that this is occurring, but it seems highly unlikely that the process will be completed in the foreseeable future (Appelrouth and Edles 2011).
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