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  • Writer's pictureWei Azim Hung

Report: G20 Summit, Recover Together, Recover Stronger

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Key takeaways:
  • Biden steps into G20 aiming to unite leaders in opposition to Russia’s war on Ukraine

    • The summit was dominated by geopolitics, to the irritation of its Indonesian hosts who preferred to focus on the global economy

    • Most G20 members have signed onto a statement condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine

  • The G20 meeting in Bali signaled Xi Jinping’s emergence from three years of self-imposed pandemic isolation

    • In contrast to Xi, the Bali meeting further isolated Vladimir Putin

  • Europe takeaways:

    • Most G20 members condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine

    • European leaders make it personal with Putin

    • France is using Bali G20 summit to launch new Indo-Pacific strategy

    • EU leaders took the opportunity to talk in Balin

  • U.S.-China relations on better footing

    • Biden tells China that its Taiwan policy was too ‘aggressive’

    • Biden reiterates Washington’s long-standing stance on Taiwan

    • Climate cooperation might resume in some form

    • Moscow’s nuclear threats have worried Beijing and Washington

  • G20 struggles for relevance as rifts grow, no equivalent status to G7 (more united)

    • Deep acrimony within the G20 spurred by the war in Ukraine

  • Monetary Policy:

    • The G20 economies agreed to pace interest rate rises carefully

  • The U.S. and top allies made an emergency meeting in the final day of G20 in response to a Russian-made missile falling inside the borders of Poland

  • India will be hosting the next G20 summit

G20: Economics and geopolitics

This year's G20 summit was the first-time world leaders gathered in person since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Together, the 20 nations account for more than 80% of the world's gross domestic product, 75% of international trade, and 60% of its population. The summit was hosted by Indonesia, which pleaded for recourse amidst high inflation, energy prices, and food security. Despite Indonesia's attempt at keeping Ukraine off the agenda by reiterating that G20 is an economic forum, the forum was nonetheless dominated by geopolitical issues. In particular, the ramifications of the war in Ukraine, such as high gas prices, blur the distinctions between geopolitics and global economics. A wide array of issues was discussed, such as interest rates, and nuclear threats, as well as numerous bilateral meetings, were conducted.

On Russia: Strenuous ‘unity’

At the summit, Biden attempted to unite G20 leaders in denouncing Russia's war on Ukraine but was met with ambivalence. Although the leaders' declaration forcefully stated that most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine. However, it is not yet clear which countries will sign the declaration. Specifically, countries such as India, China, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia have been tepid in their responses to Russia's aggression. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attended the G20 meeting on behalf of Putin. Lavrov condemned the politicization of the meeting. On the other hand, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky participated in the summit via a virtual address. He introduced a 10-point peace plan. Kyiv is demanding a full withdrawal by the Russian military, including its occupied territories, and reparations for its economic losses. Lavrov retorted to Zelenskiy, accusing him of prolonging the war and disregarding advice from the West.

U.S.-China relations on better footing

Before meeting Xi Jinping at G20, Joe Biden met Li Keqiang at the East Asia Summit held in Cambodia, breaking the first diplomatic ice between Biden and any senior Chinese leader in two years. Subsequently, all eyes were watching the highly anticipated Biden-Xi summit in Bali, during which Xi adamantly proclaimed that "Taiwan is the core of China’s core interests, the foundation of political bedrock in the China-US relationship”. In response, Biden reaffirmed to China that Washington's long-standing cross-Strait policy remains firm and unchanged. However, Biden suggested that China's Taiwan policy is too aggressive. Fortunately, the result of the meeting cooled tensions of a prospective new Cold War. Biden told reporters that it does not seem to be the case that China has plans to invade Taiwan now. Furthermore, both Washington and Beijing have rejected the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, sidelining the Russians on this matter. Although there was no formal announcement of ensuing dialogue mechanisms, senior-level exchanges between China and the U.S. and climate change cooperation will likely resume. The White House said Biden and Xi agreed to deepen constructive efforts to address climate change, health and food security.

Bilateral meetings

According to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the war in Ukraine was the most debated article of the 'leaders declaration'. French President Emmanuel Macron said that leaders of the G20 agreed to push for de-escalation in Ukraine. Macron also expressed hope for China to step up its leadership and play a role in the mediation process. Other notable bilateral discussions include Biden meeting with Rishi Sunak, Biden's first meeting with the new British Prime Minister. Biden called Britain America's closest ally and closest friend. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also met with Sunak to discuss ways in boosting bilateral trade. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised concerns with Xi on potential domestic interference in China. Xi Jinping lectures Justin Trudeau over alleged leaks to the media. Australian Prime Minister Anthony met with Xi, both signaling that they would move past previous disagreements. Lastly, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called on China to do more with North Korea's nuclear and missiles and provocation.




Cover image: Reuters

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