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Opinion
The Importance of Finding Balance
The world needs a new consensus on growth strategy
By Michael Zakkour | NO. 36 SEPTEMBER 8, 2016

Customs officers check imported products in a warehouse of Hangzhou Cross-border E-commerce Industrial Park on November 10, 2015 (XINHUA)

 

Taoist thinking holds that nature and the universe are always in balance, the Yin and Yang, and it is up to man to shape his thinking and actions to ensure he is aligned with this natural balance and to ensure harmony. This is as true for 21st century economics as it was for day to day life in 14th century China.

 

As representatives of the world's 20 largest economies gathered for the annual G20 Summit on September 4 and 5 in Hangzhou, capital of China's prosperous Zhejiang Province, discussing the current and future structures, rules, and initiatives that will help shape the future of the world economy, balance will be on the minds of participants and observers alike. The world is undergoing a major rebalancing, between the old and the new, the West and the East, and the way wealth is created and used to benefit the maximum number of people.

 

Hangzhou in spotlight

 

The choice of Hangzhou is symbolic of the importance of balance as the city itself is a driver and beneficiary of recent economic rebalancing and embodies some of the most important items on the summit agenda.

 

Hangzhou encapsulates the best of China and its reemergence as a leading global economic, cultural and technological power. It is a microcosm of China's mix of ancient and immutable virtues, philosophy, thinking, history and traditions with a focus on the new and modern world of 21st century technology, commerce, infrastructure, and quality of life. It is producing questions and answers about a world where financial and technological integration and interconnectedness has changed the need of people and the ability of institutions (of all kinds, but especially financial and political) to meet them.

 

Hangzhou during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) was one of the largest, most beautiful and richest cities in the world. It was the southern terminus of the Great Canal and was a hub of cultural, engineering, architectural, artistic and commercial wonders. Hangzhou's 1,000-plus-year history has been a bedrock and foundation of Chinese success over the centuries and its spirit of hard work, ambition and innovation, always just under the surface, has reemerged. Hangzhou is once again a business, innovation and cultural powerhouse, not just in China, but on the world stage.

 

Hangzhou's largest and most famous hometown company is Alibaba. From its humble beginnings as an Internet 1.0 platform that connected foreign buyers with Chinese manufacturers (representative of the engine of massive growth in the opening up and reform era) the company has evolved to become the largest e-commerce company and one of the largest technology companies in the world and a leader innovative technologies, finance, supply chains, cross-border e-commerce, and global sports and entertainment and is the perfect embodiment and driver of the globalization 2.0 economy.

 

The company's iconic leader, Jack Ma, in a video interview two weeks before the summit opening, explained why he chose Hangzhou for the company's headquarters 17 years ago. "At that time, in Beijing, they liked state owned companies and Shanghai liked multinational companies. In our city we liked start-ups, people building it up from nothing." He points out the spirit of entrepreneurship in Hangzhou was critical. "Hangzhou is a small city, only 9 million people, but a most prosperous city and a long history. In Hangzhou the past is the future. E-commerce and technology is drawing young people, innovation and the new economy."

 

The theme of the summit is: "Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy." Rarely does the title of a major economic and political conference capture the essence of the times and city it is held in as this.

 

A schoolgirl cycles past a G20 Summit poster in Hangzhou on August 27 (XINHUA)

 

Globalization 2.0

 

We live in a globalization 2.0 world. In globalization 1.0, the world was proclaimed "flat." In 2.0, innovation, change and development are occurring at a faster rate than any time in human history which has led to a necessary "re-invigoration" of imagination and action to create the world, and the financial systems it needs, for the next hundred years. A 2.0 world is digital, wired and "interconnected." This is a world where global innovation, e-commerce, supply chains and finance have made the inter-dependence of nations a fait accompli and "inclusiveness" a must.

 

These changes have created wealth and opportunities for many countries and peoples around the world, but as with any rebalancing, the problems and inequalities that have resulted must be addressed to ensure further, equitable and sustainable growth in the global economy.

 

As China hosts its first G20 Summit, it has a well-earned opportunity to help shape the global consensus on fair trade, banking, development and sustainable growth.

 

With this consideration in mind, China and all participants need to focus on balance. This includes how the developed world and the developing world will share the responsibilities, benefits and burdens of global economic governance with the most important bilateral relationship in this regard being the leadership of China and the United States. The world economy has recovered well since 2008, but in that time much has changed, and the recovery is still somewhat fragile.

 

The summit participants must ensure that progress made thus far continues and that the foundation for more dynamic and sustainable growth is made.

 

China's leadership and the health of the Chinese economy are critical to global progress and the health and wealth of Chinese people must continue to be one of the most important drivers of the global economy.

 

China's hosting of the event gives it the platform to be a global leader and to balance its domestic needs with those of the other 19 members, a balance which will benefit all.

 

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has explained that the hope of summit organizers to achieve "10 major results." Highlights include: develop a blueprint for innovative growth; formulate and action plan to implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; draft strategies for global trade growth; create principles for global investment policies; develop 3-in-1 cooperation on anti-corruption.

 

These and the entire agenda address the realities and practical needs of newly connected, innovation driven, inclusive and rebalancing world order. The people, businesses and governments of the world will be watching the results closely with hopes of progress on these fronts and others.

 

Change is not inherently good or bad, it is how we apply ourselves and our institutions to address change. The Hangzhou G20 Summit is an important next step in addressing a changing economic landscape and the balance needed for harmony in the global economy.

 

The author is vice president of China/Asia-Pacific Practice at the global consulting firm Tompkins International and a special advisor to the Confucius Institute for Business at the State University of New York

 

Comments to liuyunyun@bjreview.com

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