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ISSN (Print) 1996-7845

ISSN (Online) 2542-2081



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Marina Larionova, Olga Kolmar  

The Hangzhou Consensus: Legacy for China, G20 and the World

2017. Vol. 12. No. 3. P. 53–72 [issue contents]

China took over the G20 2016 presidency from Turkey during a period of subdued economic activity and diminished global growth. Growth in China was expected to slow to 6.3 percent in 2016 and 6.0 percent in 2017, primarily reflecting weaker investment growth as the economy continued to rebalance. Acknowledging that lower growth rates have become the “new normal”, the Chinese leadership set the annual target growth rate for China at no less than 6.5 percent in its 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). The Plan redefined China’s development paradigm, de-emphasizing speed in favor of quality based on innovation, coordination, green development, openness and sharing. This vision constituted the foundation of China’s concept and priorities for the G20 presidency. The article reviews themain outcomes of the Chinese G20 presidency, focusing on major results which reflect China’s priorities for domestic development and international cooperation. Using qualitative and quantitative analysis of the G20 2016 documents and the documents of international organizations, the author highlights the key decisions made at the Hangzhou summit and trends in G20 engagement with international institutions.

The findings indicate that the Chinese presidency’s priorities of development, innovation and trade received unprecedented attention, with development reaching an almost 43% share in the discourse (compared to the average of 15% for the eleven summits), innovation rising tenfold to about 7% (compared to 0.75% for the eleven summits) and trade peaking to 7.3% (compared to the average rate of 2.8%). At 2.2%, the share of the G20 discourse dedicated to the environment was higher than the overall average (1.42%) and higher than at any other summit except Cannes and Los Cabos. While energy issue-related discourse (about 4%) ranked lower than for Brisbane and Antalya, the metric was comparable to the average for the period (3.4%). Discussion dedicated to economic issues (25%) was close to the average for the period (27%). In line with the historical trend, the share of finance issues in the G20 discourse continued to decline, reflecting the G20’s role in the division of labor with regards to the regulation of financial markets.

The intensity of G20 engagement with international organizations was higher than the average since the Washington summit. The choice of organizations was defined by the presidency’s priorities and established trends. Given the UN’s role in setting Sustainable Development Goals, and China’s commitment to the UN as the central element of a fair and peaceful multilateral system, it came as no surprise that the intensity of references to the UN was twice as high as the average for G20 summits and significantly higher than in any other summit. A similar trend was observed with respect to the WTO and UNCTAD. The G20’s reliance on OECD expertise continued to rise. The intensity of G20 engagement with the IMF and the World Bank was slightly lower than during the previous presidencies. Last but not least, China consolidated the G20’s dialogue with engagement groups, most notably with B20 and L20.

Drawing on the results of qualitative and quantitative analysis, the author concludes that China’s G20 presidency contributed to the country’s development priorities, reflected China’s role in the evolving world order, and consolidated the G20’s status as the premier forum for economic cooperation and making globalization work for everyone. The author asserts that China managed to ensure its imprint on future G20 cooperation. First, it did so by integrating innovation, the new industrial revolution and the digital economy into its core agenda, generating 137 commitments to innovative growth and setting up the relevant international mechanisms. Second, with respect to trade and investment, it facilitated development and the adoption of two documents defining guiding principles for global investment policymaking, and promoting inclusive trade and global value chains. Third, under China’s stewardship, the G20 agreed to three action plans on energy cooperation, including Enhancing Energy Access in Asia and the Pacific: Key Challenges and G20 Voluntary Collaboration Action Plan, the G20 Voluntary Action Plan on Renewable Energy, and the G20 Energy Efficiency Leading Program (EELP), making further progress to address energy access, a cleaner energy future, energy efficiency, global energy architecture, energy security, as well as market transparency. Fourth, China advanced further G20 cooperation on development based on the Action Plan of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Fifth, the presidency committed to establish three China-based G20 centers, thus creating opportunities to enhance its influence in the G20 process through an evidence base, research and the exchange of knowledge in key policy areas. China struck a good balance between continuity and innovation regarding the G20 agenda, contributed to its legitimacy and effectiveness through productive engagement with key international organizations and dialogues with the engagement groups, and consolidated the G20’s capacity for direction setting, decision making and delivery. 

Citation: Larionova M., Kolmar O. (2017) The Hangzhou Consensus: Legacy for China, G20 and the World. International Organisations Research Journal, vol. 12, no 3, pp. 53–72 (in Russian and English). DOI: 10.17323/1996-7845-2017-03-53
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