- Superpowers are countries, or groupings of countries, with global influence and power. They have economic, cultural and geopolitical influence. Superpowers shift over time, as some powers decline and others emerge. The BRICs are Brazil, Russia, India and China.
- The BRICs are classed as emerging superpowers because they share one or more of the following; a large population, access to key resources, regional influence and power and economic growth.
Brazil is increasingly influential in Latin America, exhibiting regional power and influence. With a large population, Brazil is a “demographic” superpower, though it is sometimes described as an “agricultural” superpower due to the large areas of land given over to crops and ranching.
Russia is a former communist country, with access to key resources in the form of vast oil and gas resources. These reserves make Russia very powerful and influential. A serious dispute started in March 2005 over the natural gas and transit prices. During this conflict Russia claimed Ukraine was not paying for gas, and diverting gas exported to EU from the pipelines. Ukrainian officials at first denied the last accusation, but later admitted they withheld some Russian gas intended for other European countries, and used it for domestic needs. The dispute culminated on 1 January 2006 when Russia cut off gas supplies passing through Ukrainian territory. On 4 January 2006 a preliminary agreement between Russia and Ukraine was achieved, the supply was restored and the situation calmed. Another dispute arose in October 2007 over Ukrainian gas debts and culminated in the gas supplies reduction in March 2008. During the last months of 2008 relations between Russia and Ukraine again became tense because of a dispute over the size of gas debts owed by Ukraine. In January 2009, the dispute resulted in 18 European countries reporting major falls or cut-offs of their gas supplies from Russia transported through Ukraine.
India has a large, youthful population of 1.2 billion people, giving it enormous potential for growth. India also has regional power and influence and has worked to establish good relations with other “neutral” countries to enhance its role internationally. The reduction in import tariffs after 1990 have aided the economy.
Increasing economic reform and liberalisation since 1980 have led to an explosion of foreign investment and trade. China has shown strong economic growth; in 1985 33% of global manufacturing was Chinese. China could also be described as a demographic superpower, with a population of 1.3 billion people. The country has access to key resources, especially fossil fuels (large coal reserves). In recent years, China has sought economic and political stability in Asia, showing regional power and influence.