johnson168_Zhang HengweiChina News Service via Getty Images_chinasurveillance Zhang Hengwei/China News Service via Getty Images

Great Power Competition Today

For centuries, Great Power competition was based on formal empire and exercising de facto control over other countries through military means, bribery, and unequal trading relationships. The latest phase of Great Power competition, however, is much more about technology than it is about trade.

WASHINGTON, DC – The recent BRICS summit in South Africa marks the start of a new phase of Great Power competition. At the apparent urging of China, the BRICS group (which also includes Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa) invited six other countries to join: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. By some measures, the economic output of this expanded group will rival that of the G7 (the major developed countries: the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy).

According to public statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin and, more importantly, by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the goal is to build a group that can stand up to Western influence and create the foundation for an alternative international order, with less reliance on the US dollar.

This effort will no doubt gain greater attention in the coming year, especially when the expanded membership meets for the first time in October 2024 (in Kazan, Russia). But BRICS+ is unlikely to reshape the world, for three reasons.