The BRIC nations shared little in terms of a common identity (Duggan, 2015:15).
China and Russia are authoritarian states while the rest democracies. Three are nuclear power while Brazil and South Africa are not. Russia and China are permanent members of the UN Security Council whereas Brazil and India are looking for a seat in UNSC. Also, their economies are structured differently. While China is specialized in manufacturing, India is specialized in services, Russia and South Africa in commodities and Brazil in agriculture. The last three are large commodity exporters, while China is a commodity importer (Stuenkel, 2013:620). That reflects fundamentally different approaches to economic management.
A bigger obstacle is their internal rivalry. India and China, are increasingly at odds. China has blocked India’s membership in the NSG and the UNSC. China also disputes India’s title to the state of Arunachal Pradesh while India fears China’s closeness to Pakistan. Another problem is the rising power of China. As the tides of power move southwards, instead of moving towards a multipolar world, China is trying to tip the scale in its favour. Beijing’s regional ambitions in the South China Sea have caused disputes with its neighbours, and it has also gotten into a provocation with India along a disputed border in the Himalayas. Contrasting, New Delhi’s strategy of balancing through strengthening relations with the United States and Japan has China worried.
They have been unsuccessful in coordinating responses to many global challenges as is reflected in their divergent positions at the UN. Despite being displeased with the global financial institutional structure, the members of BRICS failed to challenge the Western dominance in the IMF and World Bank during the election of the president in 2012. They have often clashed on agenda setting in international institutions like in WTO or the G20. In the WTO Brazil clashed with China and Russia over access to markets, while Russia sided with the Europeans in the Copenhagen Climate Conference. Little or no coherent action was taken by the BRIC nations to create and drive a BRIC agenda in global governance…It seems that the BRIC concept does not drive the role of its members but in fact, as Hopewell states, “masks considerable variation in their sources of power and behaviour in global economic governance” (Duggan, 2015:16). Unless the BRICS can find a common ground on global issues, they will be unable to set the global agenda.
They can’t be viewed as a serious challenge to liberal norms if they keep bickering amongst themselves.