The Hangzhou Consensus
At the conclusion of the Hangzhou Summit, the G-20 issued a 48-point communique.
Forty-eight points are exceptionally lengthy for a communique, especially when every word in each point has to be unanimously agreed upon by all 20 attending member-nations.
Multinational communiques are generally regarded as “apple-pie-and-motherhood” statements that have neither teeth nor substance and typically result in no action. While it remains to be seen if that is the case with this one, there are a number of unique elements this time around.
(1) After a careful reading of the communique ‘s forty-eight points, one would observe that subtle compromises and quirky sensitivities among the major parties are reflected and suitably edited into the final document (e.g. no mention of “One Belt One Road”. not too specific on global monetray reform measures, etc.) G-20 is a forum, not a formal institution. Yet the serious attention paid by the parties to every detail signifies both the importance of the discussions and the urgency of the circumstances. In the future, these 48-points may be referred as the Hangzhou Consensus (much as the Washington Consensus of 1989 and the various proclamations of the Club Of Rome since 1972 had acted as beacons for dealing with the world’s developmental issues and crises in the past). The Hangzhou Consensus will probably supercede the Rio Consensus reached by the BRIC nations in 2014 that juxteposed the developing countries’ perspectives relative to the developed countries’, as the Hangzhou Consensus now successfully combines both and hopefully unites all.
(2) What is also unique this time can be found in some of Xi Jingping’s statements. Two stand out in particular. (a) While calling the summit “grounds-breaking”, he bluntly stated, “what matters is action, not empty talk.” It belies the fact that China has already begun to roll out a series of action steps and connected them up with other nations, and will continue. (b) He pronounced that member nations’ fiscal and monetary measures are no longer sufficient to revive global growth, as they have already been exhausted since 2008. The urgent challenge at hand must be met by other more practical and real means. It is now up to businesses, not bureaucrats, to get the job done.
(3) In that context, this G-20 is unique. It also featured a B-20 prominently. A large group of business leaders from the 20 countries actually met for a week in Hangzhou right before the formal G-20 Summit. The scale of the gathering was unprecedented, as were the topics discussed. They were there not only to sound the siren of the continuing trend of global protectionism and other impediments to growth, but also to hotly discuss opportunities in the digital transformation of the world. Germany and Britain are particularly enthusiastic participants, and appeared to have worked closely with their Chinese counterparts. Germany will continue the process as next year’s host of G-20 and promises a “digital” summit in coordination with her ongoing “Industrialisation 4.0” initiative.
(4) Of particular and immediate impact for businesses worldwide is the lauch of the eWTP or electronic world trading platform plan. The idea is to extend the e-commerce universe to more seamlessly connect up all parts of the world, including less developed regions. Its aim is to revolutionize the global landscape for small & medium-size businesses, enabling “everybody to be able to buy and sell to/from everybody else directly“. These are the sectors that structurally provide more rapid growth and jobs throughout the world’s economies, and have proven very successful in China.
(5) Despite distracted and omitted media coverage in the West, US-China relations made significant process during the Summit. The two countries jointly signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, signalling joint leadership on tackling this challenge to mankind. Also, surprisingly, the two agreed to cooperate in forming a UN peacekeeping force, with China supplying 8,000 troops and US supplying the engineering and project logistical support. Even if symbolic, it is a genuine expression that neither side wants to go down the warpath with each other. The US also toned down her rhetoric on South China Sea, while China expressed “appreciation” of the US finally classifying the Islamic groups threatening China’s security as “terrorists”. Importantly, the progress on the Bilateral Investment Treat (BIT) was described as “near completion”. [These circumstances highlight how distortive and misleading the media can be in “writing stories” while not doing their job of reporting the facts, especially when they are hugely important.]
The world emerged from the Hangzhou G-20 Summit with just as many problems as before. Hopefully the collective mindset and vision on the way forward is less murky, as we face potentially very rough seas ahead.