It wasn’t that long ago when the acronym BRIC was all the rage. It stands for the quartet of up-and-coming countries Brazil, Russia, India and China. Not long ago their economies were seen as the new driving force for global growth, and of course thoughts were entertained that this would inevitably lead to their assimilation into a liberal order, which apart from anything else would bolster the belief that with greater wealth – and larger middle classes – there would be no stopping the march of western style democracy. What a difference a decade makes.
All that appears to be happening in these states is the strengthening of elites that make the claim, for populist consumption, that they are battling against corruption - whilst actually overseeing exponential increases in the wealth of the top crust. One is bound to ask, why should we imagine it would be any different? It takes two to tango, and the west has always obliged the corrupt class from wherever it emanates. The only thing that seems to bother us these days is that as these countries accrue more power, it is not necessarily aligned with ours. In fact, we are alarmed that the new powers are more assertive and are no longer willing to kowtow to western values, even as they - in a materialist sense - adopt the very semblance of such values.
It was once said, in seriousness I believe, that no two countries with McDonalds have or ever would go to war. This certainly seemed to sum up the ‘end of history’ standpoint, however superficial. One only has to recall the blessings of God that Protestant priests delivered to the troops on both sides of the western front in the First World War to see the culpability of people whose earnest deceit to others stems from self-deceit. And never mind that the warring ruling class came from the same family.
But BRIC remains a fact, albeit with varying degrees of economic success. These are the places where (here we go) a post-Brexit Britain needs to expand its markets. These are the countries where Liam Fox needs to curry favour. No matter how vile the regime, markets are markets, so let’s get cracking! And just as many believed that British colonialism was a force for civilisation, let’s await the argument that through free trade we’ll bring more benighted people to the table of freedom and bliss (Mr Tony always thought that freedom and bliss followed in the footsteps of trade, it has to be said).
A comeuppance is on the cards.