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Foreign Policy

AU Strengthens Global South Voice in G20

Sep 21, 2023
  • He Wenping

    Research Fellow, West Asia and Africa Studies Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences

This year’s G20 Summit concluded recently in India. The absence of heads of state from China and Russia was much reported, with the general view that while it had been expected that Russian President Vladimir Putin would skip the event, the absence of China’s Xi Jinping was a bit surprising. Even U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed.” China was represented by Premier Li Qiang, who offered his country’s proposals. China was particularly pleased to welcome the African Union as a full member of the G20. Its inclusion will increase the representation and strength of the Global South.

In his speech, Li elaborated on China’s “three major initiatives” and advocated for “three partnerships.” He stressed that “solidarity and cooperation is the right way forward” and alluded to the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative put forward by President Xi Jinping, the three major initiatives successively announced between September 2021 and March 2023 —setting out China’s distinctive view of global governance and the endeavor to build a community with a shared future for mankind in the new era. It is underpinned by the country’s vision of global development, global security and global civilization.

The Global Development Initiative calls for prioritizing development, adopting a people-centered approach, striving for win-win outcomes and inclusiveness, pursuing innovation-driven development, pursuing harmony between man and nature and staying action-oriented, with the aim of promoting a more balanced, coordinated and inclusive development globally.

The Global Security Initiative upholds six core concepts, including jointly maintaining world peace and tranquility; adhering to a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security vision; respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries; upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter; due regard to the legitimate security concerns of all countries; resolving differences and disputes between countries by peaceful means through dialogue and consultation; and coordinating efforts to address all kinds of traditional and non-traditional security challenges.

The Global Civilization Initiative sets out four principles: respect for the diversity of world civilizations, promotion of the common values of mankind, the importance of the inheritance and innovations of civilizations and strengthening international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.

China believes the G20 Summit’s theme — “One Planet, One Family, One Future" — is of great significance, and embodies a vision similar to that of President Xi, who has proposed building a community with a shared future for mankind. In his speech at the G20, Premier Li proposed that G20 members should unite and cooperate to build three partnerships:

• First, step up macroeconomic policy coordination; uphold the security of the international economic and financial system; promote innovations in the digital economy; and be partners in promoting world economic recovery.

• Second, steadfastly advance economic globalization; support the multilateral trading system; resolutely oppose the politicization of economic and trade issues to keep global industrial and supply chains stable and smooth; and be partners in promoting open cooperation at the global level.

• Third, jointly protect Earth as our green home; uphold the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities; implement the G20 Green Development Pact; promote green and low-carbon development; protect the marine ecosystem; and be partners in promoting global sustainable development.

These three partnerships are, in fact, closely intertwined. If we are to promote the recovery of the global economy, we must pursue openness and cooperation worldwide by removing trade barriers and unraveling small circles. If we are to ensure prosperity and sustainable development for future generations, we must follow the path of green development as members of a global village.

China warmly welcomed the African Union into the G20 and was pleased to see the Global South enhance its representation and strength in the group. India leveraged its G20 presidency to induct the AU into the G20, a move widely regarded as a difficult feat fulfilling long-held aspirations of the AU and consolidating India’s position as the a leading advocate for the Global South.

As a matter of fact, China, as the largest developing country and a member of the Global South, was the first major country to explicitly state its support for the AU’s membership and has long been a staunch supporter of the AU’s playing a greater role in global governance, as it is a regional international organization representing the whole of Africa. China believes that bringing the AU into the G20 is a wise decision in light of the multi-polar trend worldwide. 

The accession of the AU will bring the African continent, which has long been marginalized in international affairs, closer to the center of the international stage. It represents an important victory for multilateralism and reflects the accelerated rise of the Global South as a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.

The BRICS Summit held in South Africa in August also saw that group’s largest expansion since its inception. Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were invited to join. Now the AU has joined the G20, a move that will further elevate the representation and voice of the Global South in international governance and contribute to further global democratization. This is precisely what China has been striving for.  

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