Sep 2, 2023Liked by Robert Duigan

This is more optimistic. Unlike the doom and gloom you usually write, this tone is better. Well done.

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I write this while being very skeptical about BRICS. I think it's barely an alliance and barely even a confederation, and what it does and doesn't do should be taken for little:

While I do not share your confidence about de-dollarization - I think we're actually in the era of the hyper-dollar - the other aspects are encouraging for the Cape. It is in some ways a regression to look at a Saudi relationship based on resource extraction when by rights the Cape should be as much an information and manufacturing economy as a mineral one, but hey, it is what it is.

Nonetheless: for a poll commissioned by a Cape advocacy group, 19.6% saying the RSA is going the right way is simultaneously encouraging and baffling. Were they awoken from cryostasis in 1994 to answer the question?!

Still, I don't want to be a wet blanket. The poll is trending upwards, way upwards. And with the US turning its attention to a land bridge via India rather than a sea bridge via the Cape and Suez, they (for it is they who decide) may well be willing to let this happen. And here it is, counterintuitively, the weakness of BRICS that proves its strength. Were BRICS a true rival the US would fight harder for the sea route. Instead I believe the US' gambit to be, alright, let BRICS have its fun in the Cape and Suez - we can exploit internal tensions to bring India (with its massive and influential expatriate population in the US) closer to Washington and also show that we are not reliant merely on sea power to control global trade. That's bad for BRICS as a group; that's great for the Cape in particular, to exploit its middleman potential.

Put it this way. I think, as an observer from the outside, that the breakup of South Africa is far more likely than a US national divorce, a Mexican fracture, or a Russian decolonization. And of these four, Capexit gets by far the least press. There is something happening, and while I stop short of seeing a sovereign Cape Town in the next five years, I see major changes in the South Africa future, if for no other reason than human capital will be increasingly focused on the flashpoints of Cape Town and Pretoria and not really anywhere else.

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BRICS is a joke and I don't think it's too soon to say that. First, it must be said that there are already many international associations and organizations involving these countries, and none of them mean or do much.

Why is BRICS in particular such a joke though?

South Africa is literally collapsing under the weight of its own incompetence.

Russia is sanctioned and getting poorer relative to the US despite being supposed to grow faster due to its lower per capita GDP.

Brazil is in a crisis or maybe coming out of a crisis that has been going on for years. Overall the country is a stereotype of a country trapped in the middle-income trap.

Argentina is in a crisis, and when the country is not? The country is a stereotype of an almost permanent case of bad macroeconomic management. Also important to note that Argentina, like Brazil and other countries in Latin America, are one election away from changing their foreign policy orientation in a pro- or anti-Western direction. Polls show that the majority of the population in Latin America tend to be pro-Western.

Egypt is poor and has its own regional geopolitical problems.

Oil rich countries are rich and influential just because of oil. As things like electric cars make oil lose some of its value, power will shift from oil-exporting countries to oil-buying countries. Even now Saudi Arabia cannot control all oil exporters, see how they want oil producers to cut production to raise price, but countries like Russia and Nigeria refuse to do this because they need the money.

Another thing to note is that Argentina and Egypt are not in a position to close trade to the West, and I don't think they will ever be in that position. They need Western trade, so I don't think it's very significant that they are in an organization with a funny name.

Fundamentally, these countries are commodity exporters, which is a serious weakness. Commodities are volatile and don't carry the science and technology that the West dominates.

The only countries that don't fit this are India and China, both have manufacturing and technology and the promise of more, yet these are the two countries in a bloody border dispute. India is entering into an alliance with the US, Japan and Australia to contain China. You talk about the East as if they were a bloc, but the Philippines is entering into an alliance with the US, and Japan and South Korea are already strong allies. All the while Vietnam is growing more hostile against China, due to Chinese claims in Vietnam's waters, and Vietnam is basically the other big potential in Asia after China and India.

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"A joke" might be a bit far, but I acknowledge in the essay that they are all rather sickly nations.

I just didn't want to expand it into a whole BRICS essay - I just wanted to focus on what it means for us.

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