G20 leaders respond to global concerns by reiterating cooperation commitments, but that's not enough
By Liang Xiao  ·  2022-11-18  ·   Source: NO.47 NOVEMBER 24, 2022
Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 17th Summit of the Group of 20 (G20) in Bali, Indonesia, on November 15 (XINHUA)

"Indonesian people and global citizens hope the leaders refrain from using the precious moments during the summit simply as opportunities to criticize and attack one another." One week before the 17th Group of 20 (G20) Heads of State and Government Summit kicked off in Bali, Kornelius Purba, senior editor of Indonesia's English newspaper The Jakarta Post, published an article titled G20 Leaders, Please Don't Come to Bali Just to Quarrel, advising leaders unwilling to work together to address the world's economic and security conundrums to at least "lower their ego as not to worsen the suffering of many people across the globe."

Against this backdrop, the G20 Bali Summit took place on November 15 and 16. It was the second in-person meeting of the leaders of the world's major economies since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, following the virtual 2020 and hybrid online-offline 2021 summits.

"This summit would probably be the most divided and most uncertain summit to date," Xu Feibiao, Deputy Director of the Center for BRICS and G20 Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told Beijing Review before the summit. Since late February, major events under the G20 framework, including ministerial meetings and working group meetings, have had difficulties coming to a common statement or declaration. Even less sensitive issues, such as tourism recovery, have resulted in opposing emotions. "This is very rare in history," Xu said, adding the international community at one point even worried the summit would encounter the same obstacles and not be able to issue a joint leaders' declaration.

But the outcomes far exceeded original expectations as the participating leaders reached concrete and pragmatic consensus on several issues. "…We [the G20 members] will take coordinated actions to advance an agenda for a strong, inclusive and resilient global recovery and sustainable development that delivers jobs and growth," the G20 Bali Leaders' Declaration read.

"Global society can indeed be said to have come to an inflection point, a relatively successful G20 summit at this time can make history," Jia Wenshan, an academic member of the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding under Peking University and distinguished professor at Shandong University, explained to Beijing Review.

Common crises

Created in 1999, the G20 is an informal forum for international financial and economic cooperation. It comprises 19 countries plus the European Union. Its member countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

With the exception of Russia, Mexico and Brazil, 17 G20 leaders gathered in Bali to discuss potential solutions for a series of imminent crises facing the world today, a dizzying array of issues ranging from hunger to nuclear threats. Any of these calamities on their own would have constituted a big deal in the past decades, but when all these unfavorable factors are superimposed, no country is able to solve the problems single-handedly anymore.

Above all, global economic recovery is facing enormous challenges. On October 11, the International Monetary Fund released its latest World Economic Outlook report, once again downgrading its forecast for the global economy—with a sharp warning: "The worst is yet to come, and for many people 2023 will feel like a recession." The agency also pointed out that it expects global growth to slump to 2.7 percent next year, with a 25-percent probability it could fall below 2 percent.

Along with this gloomy outlook, global economic governance is no longer working properly. Some developed economies have aggressively raised interest rates to solve their own inflation problems, and in doing so have destabilized the global financial market and put enormous pressure on emerging markets and developing countries.

Last but not least, the pandemic is a wake-up call for the world to create a more resilient medical supply chain. Countries everywhere are emerging from the haze of COVID-19 and gradually returning to normal production modes and lifestyles. Nevertheless, the healthcare infrastructure in developing countries is still weak and unable to cope with new global infectious diseases that may emerge in the future. According to a recent World Health Organization survey, as of January 13, less than 40 percent of the population in 88 of its member countries had been vaccinated; in 36 of them, this number even stood below 10 percent.

A joint response to challenges is the original intention of the G20. After the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the Group of Seven industrialized countries, namely, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, proved they were no longer able to dominate the global economic agenda. In 1999, the G20 was created as a meeting mechanism for the members' finance ministers and central bank governors, and it was upgraded to an annual summit of leaders on the initiative of the U.S. following the financial tsunami triggered by the American subprime mortgage crisis sweeping through the world in 2008. Today, the G20 has evolved into a multilateral platform connecting the world's major developed and emerging economies. Together, its members currently represent more than 80 percent of the global economy, 75 percent of international trade and 60 percent of the world population.

"We have no other option; collaboration is necessary to save the world," Indonesian President Joko Widodo said at the summit's opening ceremony. As G20 chair this year, Indonesia opted for the theme Recover Together, Recover Stronger, listing global healthcare architecture, digital transformation and energy transition as its three priority issues.

"All three topics are closely related to the economic and social recovery that is of concern to all countries in the pandemic's aftermath," Xu Liping, a researcher with the National Institute of International Strategy, said in an interview with Global People, a comprehensive political journal in China.

"The current situation of the world economy is similar to that in 2008; the risk of an economic and financial crisis exists," Xu Feibiao said, elaborating it is necessary for all countries in the world to jointly rise to the occasion. "In the short term, it is imperative to work together to defuse financial risks and promote economic stability. In the long run, the international community needs to boost economic structural reform, enhance sustainable development, improve global economic and security governance, and build a fair and equitable international order."

Global recovery depends on the shared understanding of the interdependence of actions, effectively steering the world's economies, he pointed out.

The G20 2022 logo outside the summit's main venue in Bali, Indonesia (XINHUA)

Peace and change

More and more political analysts believe the G20 summit should be about economic and development issues instead of serving as a political forum. However, political stability is a prerequisite for economic development, and economic growth and cooperation in turn can promote geopolitical stability.

Wrangling over the Russia-Ukraine conflict dominated the Bali summit. "The conflict's impact on the global economy is two-fold. On the one hand, Russia is a big oil and gas exporter; Europe is heavily dependent on Russia's energy and the imposed Western sanctions on Russia directly led to the current world energy crisis. On the other hand, both Russia and Ukraine are important grain suppliers and their grain exports have been greatly affected by the continuing conflict," Wang Xiaowei, a research fellow with the European Studies Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, told Beijing Review.

Wang said the importance of the G20 to Russia is on the rise. Compared with the BRICS or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the G20 is one of the few platforms for Russia to have a direct dialogue with Western countries.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin did not travel to Bali, Russia was not absent from the gathering. During the summit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had brief talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, and met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Wang Yi stated China will continue to maintain an objective and fair position and play a constructive role in the promotion of peace talks on the Ukraine crisis. Lavrov responded Russia will remain open to discussion and negotiation.

A citizen receives a dose of a China-made COVID-19 vaccine in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 12 (XINHUA)

China's input

As the world's second largest economy and its largest developing country, China is one of the strongest supporters of the G20 mechanism and plays an important role in addressing global challenges and improving global economic governance.

At the G20 Bali Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech entitled Working Together to Meet the Challenges of Our Times and Build a Better Future, in which he called for collective action and close cooperation to make global development more inclusive, more resilient and beneficial to all.

"China has always been a promoter of global economic development, a defender of world peace and stability, and a contributor to a fair and equitable international order," Xu Feibiao said, adding that economically, China has dynamically promoted the policy of reform and opening up and industrial transformation and upgrading. In the past decade, the country has contributed an average 38.6 percent to world economic growth, more than the contribution of the G7 countries combined. Politically, as the world's only global power rising through mutual benefit and peaceful development, China has never initiated a war, but is the second largest contributor to both the regular and peacekeeping budgets of the UN, and the largest troop contributor among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

To promote world development and maintain world peace, Xi has put forward the vision of a community with a shared future for humanity. Via emerging international cooperation mechanisms such as the Belt and Road Initiative, a China-proposed initiative that aims to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes, it has taken concrete actions to achieve common prosperity with partner countries.

"China has become a key champion of world peace and development," Xu Feibiao concluded.

(Print Edition Title: Declaration of Interdependence)

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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