While Europe and the United States grapple with problems at home, emerging nations vie for global economic prominence.
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When the BRICS—the emerging nations coalition of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—decided to make their own version of the International Monetary Fund or World Bank in early 2013, many saw it as a brazen affront to the West.
“Reactions from around the world, whether welcoming or critical of the step, all pointed in the same direction: here is further proof of the West’s decline in the world,” the European center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated. “The new bank, observers said, would be the embodiment—and enabling instrument—of an alternative model of global governance.”
Continuing, the institution stated, “For some in the West, the announcement by the BRICS was nothing short of a declaration of war.”
Among the major players in the West, the U.S. has been running on the fumes of its tremendous 20th-century growth while recording dismal economic growth numbers. Europe is also struggling and continues to marinate in its failures. At first glance, the continent can seem reminiscent of Babylon circa 539 BC. The biblical book of Daniel records the story: The empire had some years before reached its peak of military might and financial prosperity under Nebuchadnezzar II. To emphasize the extent of this economic greatness, the Bible from then on connects Nebuchadnezzar’s governance to global trade, gourmet foods, and top-shelf luxury.
After the king’s death, however, the city-state of Babylon suffered years of misguided leadership and financial imprudence. During a wild citywide party in the empire’s capital, a supernatural finger began to write on a wall in the palace of the drunken ruler Belshazzar. The meaning of the ominous “handwriting on the wall” was that Babylon would fall to the rising empire of the Medes and Persians. That night, Belshazzar was slain by invading armies and the city overrun.
But is this a true parallel?
Both America and Europe are grappling with severe problems at home, leaving emerging nations confidently surging forward. Chinese President Xi Jinping stated: “The potential of Brics development is infinite…The real potential of Brics co-operation is yet to be realised” (BBC).
The economic clout of China, Russia and India alone is formidable, with a combined 2012 gross domestic product of about $19.66 trillion. By comparison, the United States was $15.66 trillion and Europe was $16.22 trillion.
In 1998, China had the seventh largest GDP of $979 billion. Today it is number two ($12.38 trillion) and quickly moving to overtake the United States. A struggling post-Soviet Russia was in 16th place in 1998. By 2012, however, it shot to seventh place. It now boasts a GDP of $2.05 trillion.
Yet there are many more emerging nations than just the BRICS. The Inter Press Service reported: “This dramatic change in global dynamics…goes well beyond the BRICS. More than forty developing countries are estimated to have made unusually rapid human development strides in recent decades…Together, they represent most of the world’s population and a growing proportion of its trade and economic output.”
With glaring weak spots in the United States and Europe’s financial defenses, these emerging nations seem to have picked a strategic time to act. This raises the question: Is the handwriting on the wall for the West?
The answer to the West’s fall and the BRICS’ rise is not so simple. Progress on its proposed bank has nearly halted. Terms used include those such as “in principle” members agree that such a financial institution is “feasible,” but that “more talks” are needed. This is similar language to when the idea was first proposed in 2012.
A Project Syndicate article “BRICS Without Mortar” highlighted issues facing the coalition: “Indeed, while the BRICS may be helpful in coordinating certain diplomatic tactics, the term lumps together highly disparate countries. Not only is South Africa miniscule compared to the others, but China’s economy is larger than those of all of the other members combined. Likewise, India, Brazil, and South Africa are democracies, and occasionally meet in an alternative forum that they call ‘IBSA.’ And, while the large autocracies, Russia and China, find it diplomatically advantageous to tweak the Americans, both have different but crucial relationships with the United States. And both have worked to thwart efforts by India, Brazil, and South Africa to become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.”
The publication Foreign Policy noted, “…the BRICS are not a cohesive geographic, economic, or political bloc. They compete more than they cooperate, and they often seek the same open seat at the table. What they have in common, however, is that they are a new generation of economic powers that can no longer be ignored or overlooked. The American Century is over and these countries are a key part of a new multipolar world…”
These nations certainly cannot be ignored, but they have many problems to overcome to truly rival the West.
Disunity: “The Brics’ slow march toward establishing their own bank illustrates their struggle to move past populist rhetoric to true cooperation between powerful and sometimes adversarial nations. Each is eager to reap the benefits of a larger trade group—and all are fearful of being flooded with products from the others, particularly China,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Corruption: “If state capitalism is the BRICs’ greatest strength, and corruption their greatest weakness, then the lesson may be that healthy government-led economies require healthy governments,” Business Insider stated last year.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 showed this crippling reality in emerging economies. Brazil ranked 69th, with lower rankings being the least corrupt and higher ones more corrupt. India was 94th. The group’s biggest nations, China and Russia, were 80th and 133rd, respectively. By comparison, 15 of the top 20 least corrupt nations were from Europe and North America.
Aging workforce: “The number of people older than 65 in Brazil, Russia, India and China will rise 46 percent to 295 million by 2020 and to 412 million by 2030, according to United Nations projections,” Bloomberg reported. “The pool of 15 to 24-year-olds, the mainstay for factories…that drove China’s boom for three decades, will fall by 61 million by 2030, about the population of Italy.”
Growing demands: “Economic aspirations in Brasilia, Moscow, New Delhi and Beijing are inextricably linked to the strength of their national energy sectors,” The Indian Express stated. “As the economies of the BRIC nations continue to grow, their energy demand will rise sharply. According to data from the US government’s Energy Information Administration, by 2025 the BRICs, led by China, will account for nearly 38 per cent of global primary energy demand, up from 27 per cent in 2005. Some of its members will manage surging energy demand better than the others.”
These roadblocks stand in the way of continued explosive advancement.
Rising nations, including the BRICS, generally need one thing to grow faster: more consumption. Yet, by pushing their citizens to become greater consumers, they necessarily raise their standard of living and therefore stand to lose the competitive edge they gain through inexpensive labor. This could mean that their growth grinds to a halt.
Despite this threat, consumerism in emerging nations has begun. The United Arab Emirates-based newspaper The National highlighted this growing trend. “Emerging-market consumers already consume about 40 per cent of luxury goods and that figure is likely to rise sharply,” Laurent Belloni, co-manager of Pictet Premium Brands mutual fund, told the newspaper.
The article continued, “The balance of buying power has shifted. Japan once accounted for 40 per cent of luxury goods sales. Now it buys just 15 per cent. Russia and India should steadily boost demand for luxury products. ‘By the end of the next decade, 60 per cent of luxury sales should come from emerging markets,’ Mr Belloni says.”
Already, half of Europe’s luxury-item sales are made to Chinese tourists.
Brazil is similar, as Forbes reported: “Apart from the fact that Brazil’s luxury market is five times smaller than China’s, accounting for just $7.59 billion annually in luxury goods revenues, twice as much as it was in 2006 but only 1% of the global market, its rate growth is 22% a year, far outpacing several more established markets and even its own general retail sales, which rose an estimated 11% in 2010.”
“Fashion powerhouses like Tiffany’s and Gucci count Brazil among their top performing markets worldwide, and the country’s booming economy, although it may be slowing down in coming years, will remain promising enough to continue fueling domestic demand and attracting international brands. The growing ‘Brazilian bourgeoisie’ is expected to drive luxury goods sales in the next decade, with Brazil likely to represent 6% of the global market—or $63.5 billion—by 2025, according to a report by investment bank Goldman Sachs.”
Then there are those who crave sweets in India. According to CNN, “India is the fastest-growing market for chocolate in the world right now, according to [market research firm Mintel Group]. Sales there have doubled to $857 million in 2011, up from $418 million three years ago…”
This thirst for more is trickling down to budding middle classes in these nations. For the first time, citizens are buying electronics, medicine and smartphones. Imagine the potential market for a simple item like a blender if China’s 1.3 billion people begin to consume en masse.
Notice a trend here. All of the luxury brands mentioned are from the West. The same applies to less expensive commodities. To continue prolific growth, emerging nations must rely on the established companies of Europe and the United States.
But there is even more needed from the West, especially for autocratic China and Russia. One reason a BRICS bank is almost certainly doomed to fail is that it would require member nations to be more transparent, which is unlikely for the heavy governmental hands of Beijing or Moscow.
To truly compete on the world stage, the BRICS and other emerging nations need to adopt—or trade with nations that have—Western-style financial governance. These systems have proven that they foster innovation and help name-brand businesses flourish.
For the time being, the “Belshazzar” of the West need not worry about the BRICS coming in to capture its “Babylon.” Instead, the two sides desperately need one another.
Summarizing the struggles of emerging nations, The Telegraph stated that BRICS meetings contain “very little sense of common purpose and identity. Indeed, they make the European Union look like a paragon of calm and harmony. By day, they talk grandly of multilateral action to tip the playing field in favour of poorer nations, while by night they scheme shamelessly against each other, often in conjunction with their supposed economic oppressors in the West. There is virtually nothing that unites them other than resentment and suspicion of Western monopoly, some of it justified, some of it not.”
The writer concludes, “The US’s ‘exorbitant privilege’—dollar hegemony—is surely reaching the end of its natural life, yet the future cannot lie with two separate systems, one Western and one Eastern. A global economy requires global governance and global institutions. The solution lies in reform of the existing system, not the establishment of a rival one.”
In short, the emerging world—actually, the entire world—is looking for Babylon-style prosperity. It seeks a tried-and-true existing system that has been successfully employed throughout history. During Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Babylon controlled the trade routes from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. His renovation of the capital city is still fabled today, most famously in tales of the Hanging Gardens—one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Ancient History Encyclopedia stated, “Nebuchadnezzar II created a city which was not only wondrous to behold but also a center for the arts and intellectual pursuits…schools and temples were plentiful and literacy, mathematics and craftsmanship flourished…”
Think. The West needs consumers in emerging nations to pull it from its economic slump. The BRICS need the innovative products and brands of the West.
China is a perfect example of this. Over the past few years, the nation has constructed cities to supercharge economic growth. These state-of-the-art metropolises—built at a rate of 12 to 24 per year—contain housing, amphitheaters, parks, roads and infrastructure. They even have malls with storefronts painted with Starbucks, Gucci and Nike logos. Yet there is a problem: most of these cities are empty.
A 60 Minutes special described this as “non-existent supply for non-existent demand.” This massive building boom has caused a tremendous housing bubble that may soon burst.
China wants these ghost cities filled, yet does not have the economic infrastructure to do so. While other emerging nations may not have empty towns, they do have similar problems regarding the need to quickly increase consumerism.
Details of King Nebuchadnezzar’s life bring clarity to the system for which the world yearns. Mentioned previously, much of his life story can be found in the biblical book of Daniel.
One of the king’s dreams would forever change his legacy. He saw a gigantic tree that “was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: the leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it” (Dan. 4:11-12).
The king watched in his dream as the tree was hewn down to a stump and banded with “iron and brass” (vs. 13-15). In verse 16, he heard, “Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.”
After waking up, Nebuchadnezzar called the “magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers” to interpret the dream—but they could not.
The king’s reaction is like many today. The Real Truth Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack wrote about this mindset in the booklet Bible Authority...Can It Be Proven?: “Everyone wants to know what the future holds. In ever-increasing numbers, people are seeking psychics, ‘channelers,’ tarot card and palm readers, fortunetellers, crystal ball gazers and every other medium to tell them what is going to happen. And they pay for this ‘service.’ Yet, few go to the one infallible source, which foretells all the important events that will soon come upon the entire world.
“Few understand that nearly one-third of the Bible is prophecy—that it is a history book written in advance of the history that it records.” (Read the rest of the booklet for definitive proof of the Bible’s validity and read the Personal You Can Prove the Bible’s Authority! contained in this month’s issue.)
Nebuchadnezzar desperately wanted to know what his dream portended for the future. Yet he did not get an answer until he called on his servant Daniel who relied on God to show him. When the dream was interpreted, it was revealed that the tree represented the king. He was told that if he did not humble himself, he would be abased—brought low—for seven years (4:19-26).
Sure enough, the king did not change his ways and suffered for seven years.
A critical aspect of Bible prophecy is the principle of duality, which means that many foretold events may have smaller fulfillments before a final major fulfillment in the future.
Duality applies to this dream. Bible prophecy shows that the stump, which also represents a prosperous Babylon-style system, would be bound by “iron and brass” for 2,520 years.
A biblical “time” is defined in Revelation 12—verses 6 and 14—as a prophetic day. Numbers 14:34 shows that each prophetic day equals one calendar year. In the Bible, years are based on a 360-day calendar. Put together, “seven times” equals 2,520 literal years.
Over 30 years ago, the brass and iron banding was finally removed from the stump of Nebuchadnezzar’s system. This means it has been growing for decades and will soon be ready to provide abundant prosperity for much of Earth.
Yet where is this system today? The empire of ancient Babylon passed the baton to ancient Rome and then also to Europe. Both Rome and Europe have deep historical roots in Babylon-style governance.
Note that as other nations rise to prominence, the Bible shows that U.S. decline will continue and Asia and Europe will surpass it as world powers for a time. (Read David C. Pack’s comprehensive book America and Britain in Prophecy to learn the stunning details.)
In Revelation, the Bible details the European-led global marketplace. Revelation 18:16 describes a “great city”—referred to as “Babylon” in verse 2—“that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls…”
The rest of chapter 18 describes this system and reveals that European supply will be met by hearty demand in what are now emerging nations.
Verse 3 states, “…the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies”—meaning the entire world will benefit from this economic powerhouse.
But verses 12-13 record more: “The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and odors, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots…”
Under the coming system, nations of the earth will live “deliciously” (vs. 7), which is better translated “luxuriously.”
While these verses could easily describe the time of Nebuchadnezzar, it is a picture of what will come to the world in the next few years.
Yet you do not need to merely wonder if these things are true—you can know for certain!