Given rising economic, social, political, environmental, and security risks around the world, this week was a tough time to hold a consensus-oriented global summit of major powers. Did the G20 Hangzhou summit manage to break new ground and significantly advance global governance?
The Chinese presidency of the G20 deployed unprecedented resources to advance a common-good agenda focused on growth, innovation, trade and investment liberalisation, development, climate awareness and inclusion. Yet, only mid-level outcomes could be attained; confidence-enhancing breakthroughs remained out of reach in the current international context. The final communiqué mostly endorses countless proposals from lower level working groups but does not indicate a real sense of ownership by leaders of the most powerful countries. The diplomatic ballet of bilateral and multilateral summit was helpful but could not overturn current trends of fragmentation and entropy, driven by internal social forces.
Great risks and tensions currently beset our global system; it is hard to find any state leader with any political space to think long term. In this charged context, the Chinese presidency and Chinese economic ministries and think tanks unleashed tremendous entrepreneurial energy throughout the year leading up to the Hangzhou summit. They activated or enlivened working groups on global financial governance, trade, environment and development. They organised more meetings and more elite consultations than any G20 before. Chinese leaders genuinely attempted to make this G20 one of the most important G20 summits since London in 2009, with a focus on long-term governance and sustaining globalisation in the age of green and shared growth. They even managed to absorb and attenuate the great uncertainties hovering around the Chinese economy from the summer of 2015 until early 2016. No country poured as much effort and focus on a successful G20 since South Korea in 2010. The city of Hangzhou was given a facelift, turning it into the cleanest and most beautiful city in China, at the cost of emptying it of many of its inhabitants just before the summit.
Did it work?
For analysis on the achievements and shortcomings of the 2016 G20 Hangzhou summit by our Policy Expert, Yves Tiberghien, click here to continue reading.
Photo by IIP.