In the current international political situation, the content of the Group of Twenty (G20) summit appeared to be more geopolitical than economic in nature. G20 is a platform of the world’s wealthiest 20 nations that make up 80% of the world’s GDP and 75% of international trade. The heads of the state and government meet yearly on this platform to discuss the strategic views on contemporary economic trends and the future of economic prosperity and growth. This year, the G20 leaders’ summit was hosted by Indonesia in Bali, in which various issues were discussed, ranging from the Russia-Ukraine war to education to health. Apart from the main summit, there were various bilateral meetings as well that were held on the sidelines. This analysis will present the three most notable developments of the conference, including the Chinese aspiration for diplomatic mending, the further isolation of Russia and the Indian quest for regional leadership.
The G20 Bali summit is particularly significant because China has once again come out of the so-called “self-imposed isolation” in the last three years after the COVID-19 outbreak, with a cordial posture towards fellow G20 leaders. The Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden held a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. The Xi-Biden meeting significantly drew tremendous attention; some believed it to be a step towards repairing the fractured relationship, while others still thought the meeting had no substantial outcomes. China also held a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The French President insisted that China intervene and bring Russian leadership to the negotiating table, while he also presented his wish to visit China in early 2023.
The G20 meeting was evidence that every time the global economy is under discussion, it is overtaken by geopolitical and geostrategic overtones.
Nevertheless, the conference proved to be a relief for the observers that witnessed months of diplomatic silence between China and the US. It showed that the channels of communication are opening between the two with ongoing talks about the expected US Secretary of State’s anticipated visit to China. Moreover, the willingness of both sides to work on critical issues through collaborative working groups also demonstrates that the possibility of dangerous misunderstandings can be averted in the future. Xi’s speech at the summit also centred around the theme of “unity and cooperation”, reshaping Chinese relations with the group’s member countries on a positive note.
One thing that the G20 summit clearly demonstrated is the inevitable interdependence between politics and the economy. It has struck many people that G20, a platform based on geoeconomic objectives, was overwhelmingly occupied with discussions centred around Ukraine and Russia. Instead of addressing the world’s most pressing issues with the will to attain consensus on deliberations, the platform was used to push Russia into further diplomatic isolation. This platform could have been an opportunity for the world’s most powerful leaders to at least try to find a way to involve Russia in the negotiations. Instead, every bilateral and unilateral communication was dominated by condemning Russia’s actions.
The G20 meeting was evidence that every time the global economy is under discussion, it is overtaken by geopolitical and geostrategic overtones. Despite centring the summit’s theme around the war in Ukraine, a joint communique was not published, which shows that there was still a lack of consensus on the issue. It has also shown that economic dependency or interdependency also replicates in states’ political rhetoric. This can be a matter of concern for the future. For instance, if a similar geopolitical upset happens vis-à-vis China’s potential action towards Taiwan, there might be a divided stance due to many Asian states’ dependency on China.
Moreover, the immense focus on the war on Ukraine deviated much-needed attention from the other core issues, such as post-pandemic economic recovery and global debt. China and India, who have previously refrained from commenting in favour of any side, have also shown concerns regarding Russian actions at the Bali summit. In contrast, Xi showed wariness about nuclear threats, and India pushed for a ceasefire.
One peculiar case at the G20 summit is that of India. India’s activities at the summit were noteworthy, perhaps suiting an ambitious Global South leader. The most important milestone for India in the G20 summit is assuming the presidency of the G20 summit. With his statement that “today’s era must not be of war” vis-à-vis Russia-Ukraine war, Modi appeased the West, particularly the US administration, which appreciated India for the assertion. India’s proactiveness at the G20 summit is also associated with Modi boosting his election campaign by entitling himself as a global statesman. Overall, it is sufficing to say that the G20 summit, being an economic platform, hardly brought any fruitful economic outcomes. United Nations Security Council or NATO summits are a great platform to lash out at Russia, but the world expected a more economically productive output from the G20 summit.