The Path Forward
In 2001, Jim O'Neill became the sole head of Goldman Sachs's economic research team. With an ambition to make his mark, Mr. O'Neill started searching for new trends—a new way to frame the global economy that would burnish the reputation of him and his team. The outcome of that search was a new acronym that would begin to pervade corporate vocabulary over the next decade. In a paper published in 2002, the acronym BRIC was born. Now known to many, the acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India, and China, the four countries that Mr. O'Neill believed would begin to dominate discussions and strategies for economic growth.
Two years later, in a follow-up paper, Mr. O'Neill estimated that GDP from BRIC countries would overtake the established world's economies by 2037. His comparison was the G7, the countries that together represent the globe's current dominant economic powers. After the follow-up paper was published, the label stuck, and business executives started looking at the world quite differently.1
Around the same time, a new generation of leaders in China emerged. The protégés of Deng Xiaoping—men like Zhu Rongji and Zhang Xiamen—had held power in China and had mostly continued Deng's legacy, which lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty through an export-led economy. In 2002, Hu Jintao assumed power as China's president. He was the first Chinese president since the 1949 Communist revolution to not have direct ties to it. Like his immediate predecessors, ...