G20 London 2009

On the Road with Obama: Rising Powers

Rob Reynolds, Al Jazeera English
From Reporter’s Log
Thursday April 02, 2009, London

Barack Obama, the US president, maintained on Thursday that the US is still a critical actor on the world stage.

“I do not buy into the notion that America cannot lead, but with the world as complex as it is, it’s important for us to form partnerships and not dictate,” he said, following his meeting with world leaders.

But many here at the G20 believe the US, while still the world’s pre-eminent economic power, has experienced a downgrade.

That’s not only because Wall Street played with matches and set the global economic house on fire.

The turbocharged, risk-addicted and consumer-centric model of US capitalism is broken for good.

Obama acknowledged as much when he said that “we must put an end to bubble bust cycle that endangers prosperity”.

But the US role in the global economic meltdown had left resentment in some quarters at the G20 towards Washington.

And while there was support from Obama and Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, for better global financial regulation, there was a feeling from the two leaders that it could be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

China on the march

On an another level, there is a palpable sense of the geopolitical forces shifting and cracking.

The so-called “Global South”, long taken for granted, has now taken a place at the table.

And what we saw from world leaders is a feeling that other emerging powers such as Russia, India and Brazil now deserve a bigger say in world institutions such as the IMF.

“It’s a recognition we are in same boat, [that the] voices of emerging economies [are] being heard,” said Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai prime minister.

Perhaps the most significant recent development is the march of China, the world’s third largest economy, to the forefront of the international financial system.

“This summit signals a shift from China being a moderate player to asserting a more proactive international role, some may say a leadership role,” says Gregory Chin from the Centre for International Governance, a Canada-based policy group.

“The Chinese are careful about leadership, but I think we’re seeing China moving towards a more active foreign policy agenda.”

Next, Obama goes to the Nato summit in France to round up allied support for his next huge international challenge – the war in Afghanistan.


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