Guest Opinion: The BRICS Summit and shifting global power structures

By Adnan Bourji
On 24 August 2023 at 02:38

Editor’s note: Adnan Bourji is the director of the Lebanese National Center for Studies.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGIHE.

The power structure between states and nations is the most important criterion for assessing their strength and potential to rise or decline. The power indicators can be quantitative, such as GDP, population size and military personnel, and qualitative, such as geographic positioning, availability of natural resources and the population’s demographic composition.

If the population is young, the opportunities for progress and development increase. If the population is old, reliance on legacies and other factors, such as the personal abilities of leaders, dominates. Exceptional leaders have always played significant roles on the global level. In contrast, others in the same position accomplish little.

Today’s world is divided between two groups: one formed by the United States, NATO countries, and the G7 industrialized countries. It is a group that some believe would remain in control of the world’s leadership in the 21st century, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s.

But from our judgment, and based on the assessments from strategists, economists, and political observers, the group is aging, retreating without the courage to admit it.

China, the Eurasian bloc, the BRICS countries and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, among others, form the second group. The BRICS group, which is holding its 15th summit this month in the capital of South Africa, was launched at the end of the first decade of this century.

According to our assessments, this group is ascending, and we have begun to notice a change in global alliances and a rapid increase in the number of countries wishing to join the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Let us move beyond theoretical analysis and examine the two groups’ power structure components. When discussing the BRICS countries, we must avoid relying on an inaccurate definition of power. This definition lacks scientific evidence and only focuses on a country’s productive capacity while ignoring other important factors.

As mentioned above, there are also factors such as geographic positioning, availability of natural resources and the population’s demographic composition, especially in China and India. The geographical area of this group includes most of the Asian continent, the African continent, and Central and South Latin America. It is inhabited by 90 percent of the world’s population, and most of its inhabitants are under 35. This youthful demographic possesses a high potential for technological advancement.

Also, many of the countries in this group possess oil, gas and rare mineral resources that are vital for AI technologies. By the end of 2022, the OPEC countries own 80.4 percent of global oil reserves. Meanwhile, Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkmenistan possess approximately 62 percent of global gas reserves, according to Worldometer.

When it comes to minerals, Ziad Hafez, former secretary general of the Arab National Conference and former professor at the American University of Beirut, released a list of the top 10 countries that have the most significant mineral reserves. Most of them are in the countries of the Eurasian bloc and Latin America. Regarding agriculture and food, China ranks first, followed by the United States, Brazil, India and Russia.

We won’t delve into specific numbers and statistics here, as those are available to dedicated researchers. However, it’s important to highlight certain factors that contribute to the diminishing power within the group formed by the United States.

This group has a notable vulnerability in terms of geography and population. These countries rely on immigration policies to address population deficits, which are projected to escalate. Despite their vast geographical expanses, the population of the United States and Canada accounts for a maximum of 4.6 percent of the global population.

These countries lack energy resources and raw materials, which they used to control by force in other countries. However, the change in the global power structure will accelerate the disengagement of energy-rich countries from obedience to the United States and its allies. This trend is becoming increasingly evident.

The United States’ aggressive and excessive use of financial sanctions against states and nations is expected to accelerate the creation of an alternative global banking system, leading to an unprecedented dollar weakening. I believe the current BRICS summit will take more significant steps in this regard.

Based on the above analysis, the current BRICS summit, in which over 20 countries have applied for membership, will be a new opportunity for this group to develop. The time has come for the world to rid itself of colonialism and imperialism once and for all.