THE BLOG

The 2016 G20 Hangzhou Summit - Forging Stronger Partnership In A Time Of Turbulence

If geopolitics can be understood as a succession of situations in which the relations among the actors constantly evolve, the chess or Go game on a world scale, the analyst has to characterize each successive configuration. In that sense, it can be argued that the current moment in global affairs is marked by a growing uncertainty and disorder.

The underlying causes of this entropy are as profound as powerful - deep demographic trends, a series of unprecedented technological disruptions, power diffusion and shift of power - but they come to the surface through economic, social, political or international crises.

The G20 Hangzhou summit especially matters because it coincides with an accumulation and intensification of crises: a sluggish global economic recovery following the 2008 financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s, environmental perturbations threatening the balance between nature and mankind, the development of regional tensions impacting the interactions and level of trust among the G20 members.

"Now, all eyes are on the G20" wrote Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China, in a message announcing the Chinese presidency of the international mechanism on December 1 2015. He was already the host of the 26th APEC Economic Leader's Meeting two years ago in Beijing, but both the nature of the G20 and its timing makes it the most important international event that Xi Jinping will chair in his home country.

The high expectations for the summit can be explained by the unique context surrounding it but also by the recognition that it can have a positive impact at a critical moment in the international relations.

The surprise of the Brexit can be interpreted as both an effect and a cause of a larger disorder. Facing the consequences across Europe of the 2008 economic crisis on the one side, and, on the other, the "Arab Spring" and the migratory issue it generated, a majority of the British voters called to a referendum on June 23 added more volatility in the global village by choosing to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union.

When the G20 convenes on September 4 and 5 by the West Lake no one really knows in the European capitals how the EU27 and the UK will organize their future interactions and what will be the terms and dynamics of a new China/EU27/UK triangle. Such political uncertainty across an entire continent undermines the EU's economy - according to the World Bank, at 28, the world's largest in 2015 - and clearly handicaps the global recovery.

At a bilateral level, it has also to be noticed that Theresa May, leader of the British Conservative Party and Prime Minister since July 11, has already shaken what was presented by many as the UK/China "Golden Era" by unexpectedly requesting a review of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station project, a £18 billion mega deal involving both French and Chinese interests.

The Syrian ongoing tragedy - more than 300 000 people killed in five years, 8 million internally displaced and 5 million refugees -, terrible side effect of the "Arab Spring", has deeply affected its northern neighbor, Turkey, which is, with Saudi Arabia, one of the two G20 members from the Middle East. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will travel to China but his mind and his closest advisors will be preoccupied by the challenges that Ankara is facing following the July 15 coup d'Etat attempt fomented by some individuals from the Turkish armed forces.

In the Far East, the South China Sea issue has generated mutual suspicions between China and Australia and complicates the China-ASEAN interactions - Indonesia, the world's 16th economy, being the only ASEAN country belonging to the G20.

In Northeast Asia, the decision by South Korea's President Park Geun-hye to deploy the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system in reaction to Kim Jong-un's behavior brings serious turbulence in the relations between Beijing and Seoul.

Besides, the nomination in August by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of the hyper nationalist Tomomi Inada as defense minister in Tokyo is not conducive to political synergies between China and Japan, respectively the world's second and third largest economy.

Three of the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia and South Africa, the G20 only African nation, are facing economic difficulties but, with the suspension since May of President Dilma Rousseff, Brasilia adds political instability to economic downturn.

Moreover, a factor complicating the backdrop of the Hangzhou summit, is the American populist temptation, in the middle of a tough campaign leading to the presidential election on November 8, to depict China as the source of its own inadequacies and, beyond, as a generator of global disorder in a series of variations on the theme of the "China Threat".

However, volatility and entropy should not paralyze the intergovernmental mechanisms, on the contrary, they are an urgent call for decisive actions and wise leadership at the service of a better global governance. Without the appropriate reforms of the global institutions and the strengthening of the global governance disorder will only broaden.

It is in this context that the G20 Hangzhou summit offers a unique opportunity for the world leaders to enter a course of constructive, responsible and inclusive policies and, by doing so, to advance a renewed global governance. The G20 is not a substitute for the United Nations but with 85% of the world economy, more than 80% of global trade and 2/3 of the world population it ideally complements in the field of finance and economy the work done by the UN in the security domain.

For Hangzhou to be a success, world leaders have to insist on the points of convergence and focus on cooperative actions staying away from sterile controversies. One can't hope for a more robust global economic growth which would be beneficial for all without a better coordination of monetary, fiscal and structural policies.

In a sense, there is no better place than China today to reassure on the capacity to tackle daunting problems and to send a message of confidence for the future of the world economy. In the first half of 2016, supported by an entrepreneurial mindset - what is called in Beijing "mass entrepreneurship" - and an appetite for innovation, China's GDP grew by 6,7%, and, last year, the Middle Country contributed approximately 30% to global economic growth.

Xi Jinping's ambitious and long term plan for a New Silk Road - known also as the "One Belt, One Road" strategy -, the world's largest infrastructure project building upon the success of China's own material transformation, is open to the Eurasian and African countries and, beyond, to all the forces willing to create the conditions for future economic expansion. In Hangzhou, both Kazakhstan and Egypt, pivotal countries on the New Silk Road, will be the special guests of the Chinese presidency.

The Hangzhou meeting comes only nine months after the success of the COP21. Laurent Fabius, the chairman of the Paris conference and the main architect of its positive outcome, acknowledged on several occasions that without the synergies between the U.S. President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping it would have been impossible for the 195 parties to reach such a historical agreement on climate change. There is no doubt that the G20 chairman, President Xi Jinping, will ensure that in Hangzhou the Paris' spirit is kept well alive.

All along the preparation leading to the Hangzhou summit (G20, B20 or T20 meetings) the host country has rightly repeated that a long term approach to solving problems is of the utmost importance. The effectiveness of China's internal governance - a proven capacity to reform and to act with a long term strategic horizon - is an invitation for the 11th G20 meeting to take us closer to the new equilibrium of an organized multipolarity.

For years, discussions on a permanent secretariat of the G20 have been recurrent. For the G20 to fully play its role such a mechanism would be indeed a necessary condition and the idea to use the OECD as a de facto office is far to be satisfying. As a link between the developed and the developing economies, as the 21st century major factor of geopolitical change, China would be the ideal venue for the establishment of a secretariat at the service of an effective G20.

The shores and the hills of Hangzhou's West Lake have been a source of inspiration for many of the greatest minds of the Chinese civilization, it is a setting which can certainly inspire today's world leaders.

However, despite the quality of its preparation and organization a two-day summit can't realistically solve all the world's problems and order the disorder but it can certainly infuse a spirit. Working "towards an innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive world economy", the official theme of the meeting, the spirit of the Hangzhou summit takes its roots in the imperatives of creativity, harmony and inclusiveness, such a spirit can enrich our collective wisdom and is an encouragement for mankind to envision a common dream of peace and happiness.

In the written message already mentioned and signed by Xi Jinping the value of partnership rightly occupies a central position : "Looking back, I believe that the most valuable thing the G20 process has created is the close partnership we have forged that has enabled us to jointly tide over a difficult time" wrote the Chinese President.

While, on our way to a more stable global order, we navigate a tempestuous sea hit by gales of changes and disruptions, one should not let the walls of populism and protectionism erected with the bricks of fear divide mankind but, as the 2016 G20 Hangzhou summit will illustrate, one should work to forge even stronger partnership so our future can be peaceful and prosperous.

David Gosset is director of the Academia Sinica Europaea at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), founder of the Euro-China Forum and of the New Silk Road Initiative.