First published: Prospectmagazine.co.uk, 30/08/2016
Without global leadership, little of substance will be agreed at the coming summit
Next week, the Chinese city of Hangzhou, situated west of Shanghai on the Yangtze River delta, will host the G20 summit. Hangzhou, which has around 7m inhabitants, has a 2,000-year history and is most recently notable for being the home of Alibaba, the world’s biggest online retail and e-commerce company. The city has been prepared with great care for what China regards as an important diplomatic event.
As the political leaders gather, China has at least three objectives. It wants to show the country in a favourable light, befitting the status to which it thinks it is entitled. It wants to avoid publicity about the increasingly contentious disputes over sovereign and maritime rights in the South China Sea. And it wants to take credit for furthering the policy agenda of the G20, including economic, environmental, and regulatory matters. But is China’s approach to the G20 what the French call “de trop”?
The G20, which consists of 19 countries plus the European Union, was founded in 1999. Yet the first summit of its members’ leaders did not take place until September 2008, in Washington DC—as it happens, just as the global financial crisis was about to erupt. A year later, the G20 formally replaced the G8. The basic rationale remained the same: to provide a forum for the world’s biggest economies to discuss and co-ordinate policies for shared problems. But, with 20 members, the institutional structure is now much more complicated, and the rivalries and conflicting national interests greater….Read more: