Between Hub Status and Parallelism: Examining the G20-BRICS Dynamics in Global Governance
Increasingly, the G20 needs to be examined as a decentred focal point in the global system. The dominant formative image of the G20 has been that of a 21st C concert of powers. Yet, as witnessed by the ongoing dynamics of the summit process, the G20 has become fragmented. As the G20 has moved away from its apex function, it has become a nexus forum/networked focal point. Of key importance in this context is the role of the BRICS grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. At the same time as this major challenger is increasingly embedded at the hub of global governance represented by the G20, it is also engaged in a diverse array of parallel initiatives. In terms of their informal modes of operation, the G20 and the BRICS share some marked similarities. As the roles of networked fora are consolidated, the diversity of activities expands to incorporate a range of state and non-state actors. However, at the same time the club culture of both the G20 and the BRICS is contested, reducing the like-mindedness associated with traditional concerts of power.
The conceptual arguments developed in this paper are illustrated and reinforced by recent practices, including the Hangzhou G20 and the Goa BRICS summit. The global system is in the midst of a protracted period of discontinuity characterized by profound and intense tension between the push for a consolidated form of institutional synergy (with the G20 as the hub focal point) and the pull towards potential fragmentation (with the BRICS as the core agent of change). The nature and impact of this dynamic will animate the central debate over global governance in the 21st C.