China’s G-20 Moment

BEIJING – The world caught a break in 2009. The G-20, an assembly of the world’s largest developed and major emerging economies – which had thus far failed to make a serious mark on the world stage – was meeting in Pittsburgh to formulate a response to the global financial crisis. US President Barack Obama, having gotten the message that the G-7 could no longer oversee the global economy on its own, led a summit that made the G-20 the primary body for coordinating global economic policy. It was a highpoint for American leadership.

Next year, the world’s other economic superpower will assume the presidency of the G-20 and host its annual summit. Though China’s leadership will, it is hoped, lack the drama of 2009, President Xi Jinping will undoubtedly make an impression of his own. If he did not miss the opportunity to advance the goal of an Asia-Pacific trade agreement while hosting last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, he certainly will not pass up the chance to ensure that the G-20 agenda serves China’s interests.

Of course, with Turkey’s term at the G-20’s helm having barely begun, Xi probably has not yet settled on specific priorities. But some potential areas of concern are already apparent.

Elements of the current G-20 agenda align well with China’s domestic economic concerns, especially with regard to infrastructure. Last year, G-20 members agreed to pursue a global infrastructure initiative aimed at facilitating investment and boosting financing for infrastructure projects and, crucially, for small and medium-size enterprises.