Seeing who the Chinese Communist Party elected to top state leadership positions for the next five years, I think we can say serious political reform isn’t happening there in the near future. That means state-owned enterprises will continue to be propped up, and corruption will continue to happen. Add in the “demographic cliff” of the longer term, and it’s an open question as to how great an economic power China will be 20 years from now.
Russia? It’s clear that it’s all Putin, all the way down, until he croaks or a revolution knocks him off. And, as Pussy Riot shows, he’s only going to tighten his reins the longer he stays in power. That level of control stifles the non-corrupted part of the Russian economy. And, as the Middle East, Alaska and Texas show us, oil money corrupts. Declining oil money will corrupt even more, in Russia’s future.
What about India? Actual working, or theoretically working, democracy. Well, I just got done reading “Behind the Beautiful Flowers.” Beyond the poverty of Mumbai slums, the corruption, on a far more endemic, bottom-up level and way than China, is staggering, if what happens with local police, small-level politicians, city inspectors, etc., in poorer areas of Mumbai comes close to translating to the country as a whole. Add in India’s “demographic bomb” rather than “cliff” — that is, a deliberate push to surpass China in population, along with even worse resource degradation, and India’s sadly, but realistically, not a long-term economic power either.
That leaves Brazil.
Its democracy is newer than India’s but long enough now to seem reasonably stable. It’s got the best overall natural resources of the four, if it doesn’t overexploit them. It may just be the one BRIC that actually breaks through to the next level in the relatively near future.