Threats to the global liberal order are usually identified with illiberal states. That’s why China, with its repressive domestic regime and its see-no-evil (unless related to the United States) foreign policy attracts so much attention these days.
But a more compelling challenge to the current world order may be emerging from an unlikely trio of countries that boast both impeccable democratic credentials and serious global throw weight. They are India, Brazil and South Africa and their little-noticed experiment in foreign policy coordination since 2003 to promote subtle but potentially far-reaching changes to the international system has the potential to leave fears of a rising China in the dustbin of history.
The quasi-alliance of these three powers has serious implications for the international system, and its major underwriter, the U.S., depending on how the challenge is handled. But an equally important, and quite unintended implication, is the sabotage of China’s great power ambitions. By robbing China of its claims to represent developing countries, this new cooperative trio could sideline China from the major debates in international affairs. That may be good news for domestic reform in China, which has long been stunted by the country’s great power ambitions.