Varaprasad S. Dolla, Source: People’s Daily
China is the first developing Asian country to host the recently concluded G20 Summit in Hangzhou. With the recent success stories of launching One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China did indeed put the best foot forward in hosting an impressive G20 summit not only in terms of style but also substance. Besides carrying forward the key agenda of G20, President Xi Jinping endeavored to add considerable value to the process of addressing the current global economic downturn.
In a major departure from the previous summits, the Chinese leadership chose an interesting four-fold theme of Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive economy, what one might call the I4, which is quite appropriate for the current context of slow global recovery. Of the four themes, while the global economy is in dire need of Invigoration with more investment and better governance; the Interconnected nature of the global economy is under pressure, particularly with the recent rise of economic protectionism as witnessed in the case of Brexit which brought considerable pressure on the European Union; two of them stand out and require more illumination and attention: Innovation and Inclusive growth.
Innovation and Inclusivity are vital for two key reasons. First, innovation has a major role in spurring the current sluggish growth as is clear from the pages of history. Technological innovation made substantial contribution to the growth and expansion of the American, Japanese, Korean and some of the European economies in the second half of the twentieth century. More recently, China and India have witnessed innovation shaping their economies to a great extent. Both countries are aiming to make a paradigm shift to becoming nations of innovation in the next few decades. In fact, China hopes to be an innovation nation by 2020 and India declared this decade as a decade of innovation. Given its focus on innovation in its domestic context, China aims to foster innovation in the global economy. A well thought out and calibrated Road Map for Innovation-driven Global Economy is the need of the hour more than ever before. The Summit has underscored the need for strengthening the global innovation architecture.
Second, as the number of countries that are on the margins of the global economy outnumber those at the core, steering the world economy towards an inclusive growth is critically important. It is gratifying to note that China invited some of the emerging economies such as Egypt, Laos and Senegal for the G20 Summit and thus expanded the number of participants. The real success of the Summit is in taking up the concerns of the emerging economies and addressing them to their satisfaction. Two issues need special attention here are: the need to increase investment in the developing countries besides providing some of the advanced technologies. One of the key strengths of China is its impressive investment in the infrastructure development in the last three decades, which can be a model for the developing countries. China is keenly committed to share this experience with the developing countries through its projects such as OBOR and AIIB. For this to be a reality, China and the other developing countries need to be open to put their money where their mouths are and partner for win-win cooperation without negating their mutual security concerns.
In addition to these two themes, China’s resolute focus on evolving 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is noteworthy. With the US and Chinese leaders ratifying the Paris Agreement a day prior to the Summit, the chances of mitigating the global pollution are much brighter. India also expressed its domestic concerns, which have been duly and tacitly acknowledged by the rest of the G20 members.
As the global community makes a paradigm shift from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is an imperative to consolidate the latter by promoting green economy. This requires commitment on the part of the developed and the developing countries to carry out common but differentiated responsibility in promoting green economy. While the advanced countries must come forward to supply eco-friendly technologies to the developing countries, the developing countries do need to invest more in environment-friendly initiatives. Both must walk half way to take the Paris Agreement forward and thus contribute to a better world.
The Chinese leadership thus played an admirable role in articulating a four-fold vision for the global economy at the G20 Summit. However, the real accomplishment of the Summit is to be measured by whether or not the much-needed succor is provided to the sluggish global growth in both the developed and developing countries in the immediate and medium terms. Interestingly, there is a clear traction in this direction. The global community is hopeful that the articulation of the vision is actualized in praxis.
Professor Varaprasad S. Dolla teaches Chinese Studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.