In mid-August, a global summit of influential countries made headlines around the world, but it wasn't NATO or the G7.
This was a summit for a coalition known as "BRICS."
It's named after the original countries that founded the group in 2009: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. South Africa was added to the group in 2010.
The recent summit put the bloc in the spotlight by announcing six new members that will join the BRICS group on January 1st: Argentina, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.
Currently, the countries in the G7, including the United States, represent 10% of the world's population and roughly 42% of its GDP.
By some estimates, the BRICS nations currently represent about 40% of the world's population and roughly a quarter of its GDP.
Once the largest oil-producing nations join the bloc next year, its collective economic clout is expected to climb even more.
Reactions from Western observers are mixed, with some playing down the potential for any economic or political rivalry with the group.
For example, former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton told CNBC it was not a particular concern.
"I don't think they constitute a serious challenge at this point because the biggest economy of the group, China, is itself now going into a period of potential real trouble," said Bolton.
Underscoring the potential for political infighting, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the summit virtually because the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
South Africa, as a signatory to the ICC treaty, would have been obligated to arrest Putin had he landed on its territory.
But others see BRICS as a rapidly growing superpower of nations, and the recent summit as a major show of influence for China.
Earlier this year, China mediated the de-escalation between Saudi Arabia and Iran by helping to re-open diplomatic channels between them.
In Africa, China has also made significant inroads by building infrastructure and growing its influence across the continent—accomplishments that Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted at the summit.
"Over the past decade, China has provided a large number of development assistance to Africa and has helped build more than 6,000 kilometers of railway, more than 6,000 kilometers of highway, and 80-plus large power facilities on the continent," Xi said.
China alone has overtaken the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as the world's largest creditor, lending hundreds of billions of dollars across the globe.
One of the central appeals of the BRICS group is its "New Development Bank," intended to be an alternative lending option to the IMF and World Bank.
Critics claim the United States holds too much power within the IMF and World Bank, which often impose lending requirements and penalties that are too stringent for the poorest countries.
"The pandemic has underscored once again how the global financial architecture is outdated, dysfunctional, and unjust. It has failed in its basic function as a global safety net," said Antonio Guterres, United Nations General Secretary.
But the "New Development Bank" has come under fire for similar problems with transparency and strict loan requirements.
And according to the Associated Press, at least a dozen countries indebted to China are now dedicating more than a third of their government revenues to paying off ballooning foreign debt.
Doubling in size next year, BRICS has the potential for massive growth in influence over the next several years.
But it still faces an uphill battle to unseat the economic and political clout of the G7 nations on the global stage.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com