Agenda may target protectionism
RanaMitter believes China hosting the G20 summit in Hangzhou is a historic event for the world’s second-largest economy.
The director of the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre argues it could also be a pivotal moment in the country’s relationship with other leading nations.
“It cements China’s place in the global economic community.”
Mitter, 47 and regarded as one of the world’s leading Sinologists, says also the G20 itself is now increasingly a more important body than the G8 in that it more accurately reflects the composition of the global economy.
“Since the financial crisis, the G20 has continued to grow in importance, whereas 20 years ago, the G7 or the G8 (from which China is excluded) were more the focus. The emerging economies, which were not once part of the traditional leadership of the world economy, are not going to go away and are going to continue to grow in importance.”
The historian says staging the G20 can be compared to Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics in 2008 and also the Shanghai Expo in 2010.
“I would say it is a confirmation that China sits among the global elite, particularly when you are talking about the political and economic sphere.”
He says that while it might not attract the same audience as the Olympics, it is still a very important event, particularly for the world’s key decision-makers.
The academic also argues the G20 — and, in particular, hosting the summit — gives China the chance to prove to everyone that it wants to be a strong part of the international community fighting for everyone’s interests and not just its own.
“Events like the G20 are really important in showing that China sees itself as part of a mutually beneficial international economic structure and that it’s not simply entering into it with purely China’s interests at heart.
“It is a sign that China has had to become a bigger player and is going to be held up to global standards rather than simply its own assessment of how it does.”
Mitter, who studied Chinese at Cambridge University and was a Kennedy scholar at Harvard, has been director of the Oxford University China Centre, nowone of the world’s leading institutions for Chinese studies, since 2013.
He is a particular specialist in China’s World War II period and has written a number of leading books, including China’sWarWithJapan193745:theStruggleforSurvival, which was described by Henry Kissinger as an “important and moving contribution to the historical record”.
Mitter believes one of the major items of the summit agenda will be how to respond to protectionism and avoid the global economy following the dangerous path of the 1930s that led to Great Depression. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he wants to impose a 45 percent tariff wall on imported Chinese goods.
“Free trade is often a little bit like Saint Augustine, ‘Make me chaste Lord, but not yet’. In other words, countries generally like to gain the fullest advantage they can from protectionism and mercantilism, make themselves strong and then say everyone else should trade freely,” he says.
“So it will be interesting at the G20 whether there is any serious discussion about the integration of regional economies and creating a better framework for free trade.”
He believes, however, there will be calls for more fiscal expansion to combat sluggish economic growth and a move away from the austerity policies that have been the dominant orthodoxy since the global financial crisis.
“China has become a more developed economy insignificant ways over the last decade. It is now suffering the problems that many countries have when they reach the middle income zone and the old medicine no longer works,” Mitter said.
“I might not have imagined exactly what was going to take place but I was aware that China had many periods of great prosperity. In a sense there is an argument that its previous history had been an anomaly and China returning to a position where— because of its size, population and geographical location — it would become a more significant economic actor again was only natural.”
I would say it is a confirmation that China sits among the global elite, particularly when you are talking about the political and economic sphere.” Rana Mitter, director of the Dickson Poon University of Oxford China Centre