G20 London 2009

China Upgraded to Global Power


Paola Subacchi  Research Director, International Economics, Chatham House
From the London Summit Media Centre

It is the end of the big day and I am travelling from the Excel Centre to a Brazilian café in Acton. The BBC wants to record an interview for Newsnight there, so to add some colour – a long way to go for a couple of soundbites! Does the London Summit make any difference for countries like Brazil? What do the BRICs get out of it?

Perhaps the voice of the developing countries was a bit muted, but surely being around the table is already a big achievement. By delivering a sensible, albeit not exciting, plan of action and showing unity and cooperation, the G20 has qualified to be the key multilateral forum for some years to come. It has de facto replaced the G7 in terms of depth and scope of its agenda – the G7 will continue to be the forum for developed economies. And the developing countries are part of it. However, they will have to move from the background to the limelight and ensure that they are not ‘junior partners’ forever. How can this happen?

Assertiveness is not only a function of geopolitics, but, and foremost, of the ability and willingness to commit resources. This is the big lesson of the London Summit, and the dividing line between ‘senior’ and ‘junior’ partners, or ‘global powers’ and ‘regional powers’. Putting aside some initial reluctance – as in the G20 summit in November 2008 – in London China graduated from regional to global power. It showed political and financial muscles and the appetite to be involved in the global dialogue – with also an interest in developing a closer relationship with Washington.

China is no longer a BRIC, and should no longer put together with countries, like Brazil, that have the potential of becoming large economies and global powers, but they are not quite there. Economic figures clearly show this divide. China’s economy is about US$30,000 bn in volume, has about 10% of GDP current account surplus and approximately US$2,000 bn in FX reserves (estimates for 2008). Brazil’s economy is much smaller (slightly below US$3,000 bn), has about 2% current account deficit and just below US$200 bn FX reserves. This puts China along with the other large economies – US, EU and Japan – and, also, in a special relationship with the US – it is worth noting that President Obama and President Hu Jintao have already agreed to meet twice later this year under the framework of the China-US strategic and economic dialogue.

Political influence and economic power go together, and China seems determined to use both to shape a more global role for itself.

Disclaimer: This blog is solely intended to spur discussion, while the opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI, Chatham House or their respective Boards of Directors.


Setting Expectations for the G20 Summit
April 1, 2009, 11:36 am
Filed under: Analysis | Tags: , , , , ,


Andrew Schrumm  CIGI Research Officer
From the London Summit Media Centre

This morning, Chatham House hosted a high-level panel on the G20 London Summit. As both a launch of its new report, New Ideas for the London Summit: Recommendations to the G20 Leaders, and as a public forum on the eve of the major international meeting. Chaired by Chatham House Director Dr. Robin Niblett, the panel included Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, UK prime minister’s G20 special envoy; Dr. Youssef Boutros-Ghali, Egypt’s minister of finance and chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC); Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley Asia Director; Dan Price, Sidley Austin Senior Partner for Global Issues; and Dr. Paola Subacchi, Chatham House Research Director of International Economics.

The panel rasied a number of critical questions on the state of the global economy, the nature of the response, and the style of crisis management through the G20 process. The full-length audio of the event is available online at: http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/events/view/-/id/1105/

Amid high expectations for the G20, the panel acknowledged that there will need to be compromises in both substantive areas and in the process. In his remarks, Lord Malloch-Brown attempted to set expectations for tomorrow’s meetings, by giving insight on the declaration. He noted that there will not be specific agreement on two major items – climate change and a global stimulus benchmark. First, as many participating countries urged that the climate change process continue through the UNFCCC, the G20 should not disrupt the discussions leading in to the major meeting in December at Copenhagen. Second, as many nations are in mid-course of stimulus infusion, a technical judgement was made that the G20 should not promote a standard stimulus rate at a time when most are sorting out the true demands of their domestic economies. Lord Malloch-Brown emphasized, however, that as a peer group the G20 will continue active monitoring and coordination of national economic stimuli, observing and advising one-another on adequate measures to avoid inflation.

These two hesitations emphasize the limitations of the G20, primarily that it is not a legislative body. Any summit declarations must seek compliance first at the national-level after the leaders return home, and second on the international regulatory institutions to employ the G20’s prescriptive measures. With this in mind, Lord Malloch-Brown suggested that the summit declaration will include commitments in a number of areas. First, a strong package on regulation, with broad agreement on enhancement of the Financial Stability Forum (FSF), Basel discussions, and IMF functions. Second, an international emphasis on trade promotion and reduction of protectionist measures. Third, a recognition of stability in poor economies will rely on continued /increased development assistance by industrialized countries to the global South. And forth, a strengthening of the international financial institutions – particularly IMF and World Bank – but with economic support must come reform.

These insights, from a key insider of the G20 process, are telling. Lord Malloch-Brown modestly acknowledged that the world’s economic problems will not be solved in a few hours of meetings, and that progress will have to come over a long period of time. However, he remains optimistic that this phase of international economic diplomacy will mark the ‘beginning of the end’ to the global crisis.