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China pushes development agenda at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou
By Zhou Jinyan | Web Exclusive

While analysts generally agree that the G20 should shift from a short-term crisis response mechanism to a long-term governance mechanism, a more pressing issue central to the debate is about the G20’s position in the future - will it advance as a concert of big powers, a new group of emerging powers or a modern global governance mechanism?

China, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has set the tone and future direction of the group. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in May that the G20 not only belongs to its 20 member countries, but belongs to the world and it focuses not only on its own welfare, but also the common development of all humanity. This shows that the G20 strives for the welfare and development of all mankind and the Summit this September is a turning point, as it attaches great importance to development issues, particularly those in Africa.

Unparalleled level

The great efforts China has made to push development issues will further upgrade the G20 from a crisis response mechanism to a platform for global governance. During its presidency of the G20, China’s initiatives and proposed measures are vital to different countries’ cooperation and policies with Africa, while Africa is expected to benefit from the Hangzhou G20 Summit.

2015 was a “Great Year” of international development cooperation, most notably for Africa.

In January, African leaders adopted Agenda 2063 as the continent’s new long-term vision for the next 50 years. In July, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and adopted the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. In December, China-Africa relations were lifted to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership at the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). In addition, China put forward 10 major plans to boost cooperation with Africa over the next three years, backed by a $60 billion investment package to finance initiatives. Development financing, sustainable development and climate change are all crucial to African development.

The G20 Summit this September is not only dedicated to addressing the major development issues raised in 2015, but puts development issues for Africa on the agenda in an unprecedented scale. It will be the first time in G20 Summit history that development is being given priority in a global macro-policy framework, the first time to incorporate steps to implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the first time to incorporate Africa’s industrialization into the G20 agenda. China is also working with Germany to ensure that development issues, especially those related to Africa, will continue to be focuses of the G20 Summit during Germany’s presidency in 2017.

In response to the demands of the African countries and other developing countries, China, as a host country, incorporates Africa’s development issues into the G20 agenda. It therefore helps enhance Africa’s status and representation in the international arena, which is expected to bring long-term benefits for the continent that has yet to have a bigger say in the international issues.

It is regrettable that the G20 has just one member - South Africa - from African continent, which has the largest number of least developed countries (LDCs). However, the situation is expected to improve, as China has invited more developing countries to the G20 Summit in Hangzhou for greater representation on global economic growth discussions.

Policy coordination

China-Africa cooperation models have brought more positive impact on the developed and emerging countries’ cooperation with Africa. Since the establishment of the FOCAC in 2000, both traditional donors and emerging countries have established similar collaboration mechanisms with Africa, such as the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, EU-Africa Summit, and India-Africa Forum Summit.

However every G20 member country has their different national interests and policies toward Africa, while there lacks a coordination mechanism help achieve better results in this regard. As a multilateral mechanism, the G20 provides a broader platform for strengthened policy coordination among its members, thus furthering their cooperation with Africa. At the same time, it can also provide African countries with opportunities to learn from and draw on the experiences of G20 members, especially those emerging members, as they adopt different paths of development.

In addition to intergovernmental cooperation, China should promote and coordinate think-tank peer exchanges between Africa and global counterparts under the framework of G20. The G20 will exert its influence on the global economic policy not only during the summit, but more importantly in various meetings held during the preparation of the summit.

Accelerate industrialization

The G20 Summit goes beyond traditional development assistance and focuses more on economic growth and international cooperation in trade and investment.

China sees Africa as a new engine driving global economic growth. Without Africa’s development, it would be difficult to achieve the 10 positive outcomes that China strives for at this meeting, especially a cooperation initiative to support the industrialization of Africa and other LDCs - launched for the first time.

Africa has been persistently pursuing the industrialization path and one of the main goals of both African Union’s New Partnership for Africa's Development in 2001 and Agenda 2063 in 2015 is to promote economic transformation and growth and realize industrialization. Although the continent achieved average annual growth of 5 percent over the past 15 years, its industrialization is still at a relatively low level.

Therefore, the G20 initiative for African industrialization offers a pivot point for global support of the continent’s industrialization. At the Johannesburg FOCAC Summit last year, China prioritized the development of industries in 10 major measures. These include China’s pledge to fund infrastructural development and construction of industrial parks, and strengthen international industrial capacity cooperation in the coming three years. China’s initiative is poised to serve as a model for other countries and organizations, which makes its influence equal to that of the establishment of FOCAC.

Under the influence of this initiative, more G20 member countries and other multilateral organizations will give greater support to African industrialization. China also calls on the international community to take action to speed up the process of African industrialization, and help create jobs and alleviate poverty, to achieve sustainable development and champion implementation of the Agenda 2030.

Besides, the G20 initiative provides an opportunity for trilateral industrial capacity cooperation. On one hand, China hopes to help African countries accelerate industrialization through industrial capacity cooperation. On the other, China is open in its international industrial capacity cooperation with all willing countries around the world, including African countries. China also welcomes third-party countries to join its capacity cooperation programs.

Way forward

The global recovery has been weaker than expected and faced a series of challenges and increasing downside risks, said the communiqué released after the Group of 20 (G20) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in July. Weighed down by the economic downturn and lower commodity prices, economic growth continues to slow in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is therefore urgent to push forward economic restructuring, and promote infrastructure modernization, trade and industrialization on the continent.

Protectionism would inhibit the dynamism of the world economy, and ultimately harm the interests of all parties. The G20 thus firmly opposes protectionism in all forms and firmly upholds the dominant role of a multilateral trading system. Founded in the wake of financial crisis, the G20 has been growing in the process of tackling new problems and challenges. Therefore, challenges facing the global economy should not become an obstacle to building an open economy.

China spares no efforts to put development issues for Africa on the agenda, so as to help the continent gain a greater say in global economic governance. This will both enhance the inclusivity and legitimacy of the G20 as a mechanism of global governance in international affairs and further make the continent a new impetus to the world economic growth

The author is Research Assistant, Institute of West Asian and African Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Copyedited by Francisco Little

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