بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Political Follow-up - G20 Summit in Indonesia
Sino-American tensions and the fallouts of the Ukrainian war topped the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Tuesday, 15 November 2022, in addition to the energy crisis, inflation, food security and concerns about the economic slowdown instigated by the decisions of the US Federal Reserve and the Chinese Zero-Covid policy.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo inaugurated the Summit by saying, “Being responsible here means also that we must end the war. If the war did not end, it would be hard for the world to move forward.” Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the inaugural session via videoconferencing saying, “I am convinced that the time has come in which the devastating Russian war could and should be stopped.” This proves once again that the withdrawal from Kherson and the ongoing talks between Russian and American security officials act as harbingers for the desire to freeze the Ukrainian crisis. In this regard, the Chinese president said: "We must firmly oppose the politicisation of food and energy problematics and turn them into tools and weapons," and expressed his aversion to the Western sanctions policy. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also announced that it opposed the exclusion of Russia from the G20 and from other international platforms.
This summit comes amid congested international conditions, and at a time when China’s President and the US President stand on solid domestic grounds that enable them to approach confrontation and competition from a position of strength. The summit came in the wake of the coronation of Chinese President Xi Jinping for an unprecedented third term at the Communist Party Congress, which enabled him to restructure the future leadership of the party while approving several policies and regulations emanating from the vision of the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation", which was officially added to China's constitution to bestow prestige, honour and loyalty on President Xi Jinping and his approach to using force to recapture Taiwan.
The summit also came as the Republican Party faltered and the Democratic Party advanced and gained an unexpected victory in the Senate. The summit also came in light of a state of European weakness and restlessness and a sense of bias faced by European and Japanese companies as a result of US laws and restrictions issued by the Department of Commerce and the Treasury, which the United States is promoting as a tool to curtail China's economic and military capabilities, including the inflation control law which granted American companies Nearly $369 billion in tax breaks and facilities which was described by a European Commission official as "a plan that threatens European industry," adding that it is "an excellent example of how, during a crisis, the United States will solve its own problems first and not show transatlantic solidarity." Another example is America's decision to ban the export of advanced chip and semiconductor technology which impacts Dutch, Korean and Japanese companies.
It is no secret that the meeting of the Chinese and American presidents for about three hours was the most prominent and important event of the G20 Summit due to its connection to the tense relations between the two countries following Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, the US policy of strategic ambiguity regarding the Taiwanese issue, and because of US strategy towards China and its classification as the greatest challenge to the United States, in addition to China’s standpoint vis-à-vis the Ukrainian crisis.
In order to perceive elements of the tension between the two countries, which represent the two largest economic and military powers, it must be understood that Chinese President Xi Jinping has established Chinese foreign policy from the perspective of trade competition with the United States. During his reign, China designed the "double circulation" economic strategy to strengthen the domestic market and reduce dependence on other countries.
In a speech in late 2020, President Xi Jinping spoke of using Chinese technologies to tighten the world's dependence on China for supply chains. In doing so, the Chinese leader has put the United States on the defensive in a way that no other Chinese leader has ever done before. He worked continuously over ten years to increase China's international status and influence, enabled it to play a greater role in global governance, transformed his country into a competing military, diplomatic and economic power, and fortified its hybrid model that was stipulated in Document No. 9, which was reportedly issued by the Central Bureau of the Communist Party after Xi assumed the presidency. The document referred to seven threats that must be guarded against, including "universal values", the concept of "civil society", which is beyond the party's control, and press freedom. Accordingly, Xi Jinping curtailed freedoms in Hong Kong and Xinxiang province, and implemented industrial policies that the West considered aggressive because they gave preference to the largest government companies in China at the expense of multinational companies. Xi also enacted a host of laws penalising companies that are considered hostile to China, and this is in addition to his independent and opposing positions against the American will regarding international crises which made China a remarkable imprint in international relations, and which the United States considers a threat to its interests and international standing.
Therefore, US National Security Strategy stated that China "has the intent, and increasingly, the ability to reshape the international system to the advantage of one that distorts the global playing field in its favour," while President Biden has repeatedly stressed that America is "in the battle between democracies and authoritarian regimes," bearing in mind that America does not target China for value considerations as much as it targets it for geo-economic, technical and political considerations.
The messages of defiance from Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping before their meeting were clear through the appearance of the Chinese president a few days ago in military uniform, his hints of war regarding Taiwan independence, and by expelling former Chinese President Hu Jintao, live on television, from the Communist Party conference in a clear reference to the end of the era of openness towards the West and tolerance of Western ideas and dictates. In the meantime, America continued its double pressure on China and Europe, especially on Germany and France through the Ukrainian war, and through its engineering of the European-Chinese relationship.
In light of European rapprochement with China, including the partnership between the car companies Renault (French) and Geely Auto (Chinese) with the blessing of French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as the purchase by Chinese shipping company COSCO of a large chunk of the shares of the port of Hamburg in Germany, despite domestic warnings and severe criticism of the German Chancellor, the European Commission, urged, on November 3 under American pressure prior to the G-20 meeting and the visit of the German Chancellor to China, the European Union member states to reduce the risks associated with Chinese communications equipment in the 5G networks. Germany in particular was described by the EU as a country that needed to implement the bloc's common security guidelines. “We urge Member States that have not yet imposed restrictions on high-risk suppliers to do so without delay, as a matter of urgency,” said Margrethe Vestager, the Commission's Executive Vice President in charge of digital issues, and singled out Germany in particular.
Since the Trump administration, the United States has taken advantage of the Covid 19 pandemic to change the global mood against China, fuelling Western governments' fear of it by promoting cyber breaches and theft of intellectual rights, raising the pace of naval operations to "protect water rights" in the eastern and southern China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, and highlighting the military development and the special relationship, "partnership without borders", that brings China and Russia together, especially after Xi Jinping's refusal to condemn the war on Ukraine.
As for the outcomes of the summit, they are related to the goals of the United States and the commercial and technical competition with China and what is pertinent to them in terms of international systems and legislation, such as property rights, digital industries, rare materials and global supply chains, as well as China's position on America’s containment policy, including an attempt to frame the Chinese position towards Russia, the use of nuclear weapons, the Taiwan issue and the South China Sea.
Given the nature of the contentious issues, it is unlikely that an agreement on them could be concluded, and what is most likely is the continuation of tension and the possibility of crises erupting, especially since America’s statements regarding outstanding issues are one thing, and what it is doing on the ground is something else; this is in addition to China’s determination to pursue the Belt and Road project and its related policies of lending, which the United States considers a trick and a means of influence, and China’s declaration of its aversion to isolating Russia and the policy of dictates and sanctions, as well as its insistence on preventing the independence of Taiwan, even by force, despite China’s assertion that it does not seek to change the international system.
It is also expected that America will use the summit as a platform to hold Russia responsible for the global economic suffering, and to show it as morally and politically defeated, after portraying its withdrawal from Kherson as a military defeat and as a prelude to freezing the Ukrainian crisis, and to pursue the policy of downsizing and containing Russia, China and Europe at the same time.
20 Rabi’ al-Awwal 1444h hizbuttahrir.org
15 November 2022