OPINION | G20 and Building New Global Relationships: An Iranian Perspective

By By Dr. Ali Biniaz via IranReview.org

Image Attribute: Tehran Skyline by afshinrattansi, Flikr Creative Commons

On July 29–30, 2016 Beijing was witnessing the “Think 20 Summit” under the Chinese rotating Presidency for the year 2016 with Chinese adopted general theme of “Building New Global Relationships.”One substantive question is that how much this theme is reflective of global sheer realities as far as functioning of the existing global governance architecture is concerned.

To answer this question, one way is looking into what has just presented in the Think 20 Summit in Beijing. Alternatively, one can look at what had already concluded five days earlier in the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane which was on July 24, 2016.

As far as the first line of reasoning is concerned, an abstract account of what presented by the Think 20 Summit’s participants, shows that they belong to any of the three streams of thinking on global governance as following:

The first stream is comprised of basically Western scholars. They seemed to be trying to use their unique artistic collateral and soft power edge to vie for the idea that world needs to go through a structural reform surgery and industrial transformation so that a sustainable development path ignited by new energies could be achieved. The flagship for this stream was with German scholars whose country’s main tasked think-tank took over from China the rotating presidency of Think 20 Summit for 2017.

Although it is proclaimed that the G20 and hence all of its subsidiaries by default should be just involved in global economic and financial affairs with no geopolitical undertaking, nevertheless, it is fair to say that a hidden geopolitical agenda was attached to this showcase. The prime goal appears to be trying to convince others that China as a country with one fourth of the global GDP should commit itself to provision of global public goods by executing a structural reform and industrial transformation. The Germans are going to push for realization of a triangle comprising of prosperity, inclusiveness and environmental viability during their 2017 presidency era on the G20.

Complementing this first stream of thinkers, the second stream was comprised of scholars who are representative and dependents of the multilateral global organizations mostly affiliated with the UN or Western governance architecture. These organizations are conventionally carriers of the shadow responsibility of legitimizing global governance structure through provision of statistics and justifying arguments. Apparently, to back up the goal of the first stream, this second stream is instrumental.

However, against this rosy picture, there appears to be a third stream of thinkers who are highly insightful but concerned about the current functioning of the global governance architecture. This stream, although belonging to the mainstream and conventional global governance thinkers, however it is quite distinctive from the past two in belonging to an Asian, or precisely speaking, an East Asian origin.

For this group the global governance puzzle has something to do with a geopolitical shift rather than being purely economic or financial in nature. Therefore, it seems that they try to recognize the nature of its core identity before trying to address it.

What strikes this group surprising and indeed threatening is the nature of social inequality gap boiling down in the new self-fashioning that paved the way to rise of Donald Trump in the United States and phenomena like the Brexit in the EU combined with complicated developments in the Middle East like the recent failed military coup in Turkey and Daesh new heavy toll taking throughout the region. Is there any solution to this situation? Apparently, this group’s answer is uniformly nil. However, their quest for answer would be real as these scholars are faced with a perplexed regional situation while at the same time suffering from the global problems as depicted above.

As far as regional problem is concerned, clearly to speak, there is no regional architecture beyond flow of trade backed by the borrowed US social capital. To think of the East Asian Community, it appears to be a flawed proposition beyond what is written on the paper and celebrated more often than not.

The sheer fact is that, if such a structure has any existence, then it would be a partitioned community by lack of experience and competence to solve any real problem. A partition that in reality represents two different waves of new comers in the US economic partnership net, those who joined before the World War II and those who joined thereafter with two different perspectives and self-confidence patterns. How to build a bridge, it would be a challenging matter, especially as far as the national interests of the second wave of new comers including China -who has uniquely a different standpoint compared to others- is concerned.

About the Author:

Ali Biniaz, Ph.D. in International Economics and Director for International Economy and Energy Studies at the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.