This introductory essay situates the subsequent special issue within a comparative framework that helps to unpack the new global politics of development. It argues that there is a set of countries beyond Brazil, Russia, India and China – often described as ‘the BRICs’ – that are emerging to a position of increased international prominence and which merit greater attention than they have hitherto received. Recent economic risers such as South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and Mexico are responding to their economic growth and seeking to secure greater influence within regional and global affairs. The analytical framework developed here distinguishes between four distinct strategies of international engagement: issue leading, opportunity seeking, region organising and region mobilising. The framework further suggests the need to focus on new global opportunities and pressures, as well as the specific interests and capacities of states when accounting for the adoption of a particular strategy of engagement.