In many futures exercises these days that explore wider geo-political influences, one finds many references to the emerging powers, Brazil, Russia, India and China, and how they may push the world superpower balance away from the current US economic and military dominance. These countries are often simplified to the BRIC countries. But international influences are complex and these countries are very different in their profiles and future growth prospects.
China – the behemoth and will be a major player no matter what. Low labour costs are fuelling the manufacturing surge – with 1% of China’s GDP being exported to the US as Walmart goods. But there will be environmental shocks in China due to its rapid industrialisation, there will remain difficulties due to English language translation, and internal turmoil is possible with growing inequity.
India – the other behemoth. Still has major population pressures and internal bureaucracy remains a major problem. Potential for greater IT, engineering and accounting outsourcing from their almost limitless supply of talented and eager low cost white collar employees.
Russia – Unlike the first two, its growth is almost entirely dependent on the resources boom. While this boom has a while yet to run, there seems to be little diversification of their national economy to boost skills and improve private business. However, they will be a major power base for some time yet, particularly with Europe’s reliance on energy supplies from Russian pipelines.
Brazil – Another resource rich economy but a bit of a sleeper. Has its own issues with social inequity but progressing with a more diverse economic base as well as large amounts of resources (soy, iron ore and its increasing ethanol production). Particularly interesting is its push towards open-source software and away from traditional products, with potential productivity and collaborative advantages.