2016: The year China kicked G-20 in the butt

The day after the G-20 Hangzhou Summit in China, I read an article in the Jakarta Post. "The G-20 needs a kick in the butt" was its title. The author, the veteran Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, was asking G-20 countries to leave their 19th century-esque national trenches, finally arrive in the 21st century and start thinking globally. Having read the G-20 Hangzhou Communiqué and all the other relevant documents on the same day, I think that China followed Mr. Mahbubani's wise counsel and gave the G-20 a rather hard kick in its (rather voluminous) behind. This comes after a year of transformational leadership, in which China set the G-20 on a course to become a 21st-century mechanism. It is significant that China, which up until recently was thought of as a developing country, was the country to achieve this.

During the 2008 global financial crisis, the G-20 saved the world order. Its high-level financial coordination mechanism managed to avert a global meltdown, but it could not jumpstart growth. In six out of the nine years since then, global growth has been lower than the 1990-2007 average. Low growth results in bad politics. Bad politics, from the United Kingdom to the United States, Germany to France, Austria to Poland, is all about digging deeper national trenches in a very 19th-century kind of way. It is about eroding the achievements of the post-war liberal order. I see two avenues of policy taking shape: an inclusive one and an exclusive one. If the G-20 cannot reinvent itself and jumpstart growth, we will see the exclusive line of policy getting stronger.

Why has the G-20 not been successful in jumpstarting growth so far? Managing crises and orchestrating growth are two qualitatively different things. In the case of the former, you...

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