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Foreign Policy

G20’s Mission and China’s Role in Fulfilling It

Apr 05 , 2016

The G20 Hangzhou Summit in September will be an event of critical significance for the world and certainly for its host country, China. The importance of the summit cannot be overstated, because the whole world will be eagerly watching whether the leaders of the top economies can truly deliver the G20’s mission: closer cooperation and better global governance for the benefit of all countries.

The role of the summit will be discussed in a variety of ways, focusing on different aspects of it. But one shared understanding is that the summit must reinforce the sense of partnership and make it clearer that the G20’s core mission is to focus on growth and guide international economic cooperation.

Given the current economic climate, it is particularly vital that all G20 members recommit themselves to what brought them together in the first place. No country, no matter how powerful, can deal with all the challenges alone. The world has seen time and again the failure of so-called “global governance” controlled by one superpower; and the institution of several world powers trying to run the world has also proven inadequate.

The world belongs to all its people, which makes “global governance” a common responsibility. The contribution of each country may and should vary according to its size and strength, but “equal partnership” and “a world built, run and shared by all” should be the key principles that hold all of us together. The commitment to helping each other through difficult times is what underpins it all. This is the only thing that will keep the countries away from finger-pointing, double standards, beggar-thy-neighbor policies or any other selfish behavior. This is also the only way to ensure real peace and progress in the world and keep the G20 focused on growth.

Economic forecasts suggest that the year 2016 will continue to be marked by weak recovery and prevailing downward pressure on developing countries. This is coupled by entrenched structural problems in developed countries and lingering prospect of the return of economic crisis. This is the reality that the G20 is up against. Hence the essential need to come together and meet those challenges as real partners do.

A month ago, the G20 had its first coordinator meeting in Beijing, adopting “Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy” as the theme of the summit, which spells out the four priorities for the G20 agenda throughout the year: first, seeking new growth models and opportunities from reform and innovation to uncover growth potential; second, strengthening global economic and financial governance and the representation and voice of developing countries to build up stronger resilience; third, making trade and investment a greater contributor to growth and build an open global economy; and fourth, facilitating inclusive and interconnected growth by following through the 2030 sustainable development agenda, reducing poverty and pursuing shared prosperity.

Proposed by China and agreed to by all G20 sherpas, the theme and the priorities are based on the observation of the current state of the global economy. To quote President Xi Jinping’s words at last year’s G20 summit, “Under the current circumstances, we must answer two questions. The first is how to make an accurate assessment of the health of world economy. The second is what are the right prescriptions for boosting global growth and employment. ”

The G20 was originally a ministerial dialogue mechanism among finance ministers and central bank governors at its inception in 1999. The purpose was to encourage dialogue and cooperation between developed countries and major developing countries on issues of substance with a view to financial stability and sustainable economic growth. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the mechanism was upgraded to summit-level out of the need to bring to full bear the increasingly significant influence of its membership.

Thirty-five years ago, the famous Cancun Summit was held in Mexico, attended by leaders of eight developed countries and 14 developing countries. It was the first major North-South dialogue that ever took place, even though the meeting was dominated by developed countries throughout. As things changed, such dialogue took on the form of the “G8 Outreach Session” or “eight plus five”. Essentially, at each G8 summit, leaders of the five most sizable developing countries, namely, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa joined the G8 leaders for one dialogue session, signifying an opening in the developed countries-dominated economic governance structure.

Today, with the emergence of the G20, there is no more “outreach” or “plus five”. The G7 may still have the leadership and say in a lot of fields, yet the G20 is clearly taking the center stage with 90% of the global GDP, 80% of international trade and two thirds of world population, making it the natural premier forum for global governance. The increasing weight of BRICS and other emerging economies in the G20 is gaining them a more or less equal status when sitting down at the table with the developed members.

Since 2008, the G20 has been a constructive tool in pushing back the shock of the financial crisis and boosting global cooperation and economic growth. As the theme of the 2011 G20 Summit in Cannes, “New World, New Ideas”, suggests, the G20 really needs to make sense of this new world we all live in and search for new ideas to deal with it effectively. In this new world, all of us need to reexamine our position, find new ideas, take up new responsibilities and develop new policy tools. Any country trying to have all the say or shift blame on others will only end up unwelcomed. In a globalized world, no country can insulate itself from others’ economic woes. Bearing that in mind will help the G20 take the right steps in the right direction, not least for its upcoming summit in Hangzhou.

Until last year, the G20 had never held a summit outside developed countries. The Republic of Korea, a member of the Group of 24, hosted one in 2010. This year, it will meet for the very first time in China, the world’s largest developing country, which makes the Hangzhou summit all the more special. Today, few would doubt China’s influence in global economic and financial cooperation, as it rises in economic growth and national strength. Apart from China’s G20 presidency, this year is significant because it is also the inaugural year of the implementation of the 13th five-year development plan and the operation of the AIIB and “Belt and Road” initiative. In this context, the G20 Hangzhou Summit and China will certainly benefit from each other’s agendas and actions. On an equally important note, the new foreign policy concepts China has adopted in recent years such as “win-win cooperation”, “a new model of major-country relationship” and “a global community of shared future” will undoubtedly contribute to stronger partnership and a G20 committed to a better future for the world.

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