Commentary: China skipping G20 meeting is deeply worrying

Commentary: China skipping G20 meeting is deeply worrying

28/10/2021 1:17:00 AM

Commentary: China skipping G20 meeting is deeply worrying

World leaders cannot end the COVID-19 pandemic, address the escalating climate crisis or ease the energy supply emergency without China, says an economist.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the proceedings in Rome, either.But, while China’s decision not to attend the G20 summit could facilitate agreement, it is deeply worrying. Clearly, Xi no longer feels comfortable participating in a relatively small and unstructured multilateral gathering, such as the G20.

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He would rather miss a valuable opportunity to meet with other world leaders, especially Biden, than risk being ambushed and disrespected. Donald Trump’s brand of “China bashing” has left deep scars.In fact, nowadays China seems less interested in multilateral engagement more broadly. It used to participate actively in multilateral initiatives, especially on finance and fiscal policy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders attend the 13th BRICS summit via video link in Beijing, China, Sep 9, 2021. (Photo: Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP)But cooperation is now particularly difficult in these areas, and throughout Italy’s G20 presidency, China has seemed to lack much motivation to try.

This is a serious problem. We cannot end the COVID-19 pandemic, address the escalating climate crisis or ease the energy supply emergency that is threatening to derail the global economic recovery without China – specifically, without a China that contributes actively and positively to the G20.

COAXING CHINA BACKOther G20 powers must coax China back, with the US, in particular, adopting a more conciliatory stance. That doesn’t mean acquiescing to China’s every interest or preference.Rather, it means accommodating China’s changing needs, where possible, as it undergoes a complex and gradual economic and social transition. It also means giving China credit when and where credit is due.

And China has made some effort. One of the success stories of Italy’s G20 presidency is China’s membership in the Common Framework for Debt Treatments, endorsed last November, to support low-income countries with unsustainable debts.Last month, 12 countries formed the first creditor committee, with China as co-chair, to initiate negotiations with Ethiopia, which, along with Chad and Zambia, applied for debt treatment. Most of these countries’ debts are owed to private or Chinese creditors.

Related:Commentary: Climate disaster may be the common enemy US and China needThis shows that, given the right context and circumstances, China is willing to coordinate with other countries on certain issues. For example, China is not a member of the Paris Club of sovereign creditors and is reluctant to join institutions that may reduce its autonomy in negotiations with the G7 countries.

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China also has specific demands regarding transparency and disclosure. The other G20 countries – including Indonesia, which will begin its presidency next year – should take note of this in attempting to bring China back into the fold.As for Italy, it has done well during its G20 presidency to keep focus on common goals and limit the pandemic’s impact on proceedings. It has also brought some tangible advances, on issues such as open trade, international aid and gender equality.

Now, as its presidency winds down, Draghi should shore up those all-important personal relationships, especially at the private dinner. And, like at any reunion, it should end with a “family photo” of leaders who were glad they made the trip.Paola Subacchi, Professor of International Economics at the University of London’s Queen Mary Global Policy Institute, is the author, most recently, of

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