November 17, 2022
As admitted by its member states, the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues. But in a time of international turmoil with the war in Ukraine, strategic competition between major powers, the Covid-19 pandemic, global economic downturn, food and energy security challenges, and a dysfunctional UN, the G20 meetings at least provide a forum for the face-to-face exchange of views between the leading powers and economies of the world. Understandably, the Bali meeting took place under the shadow of the war in Ukraine.
Paragraph 3 of the Bali Leaders’ Declaration says that the group had a discussion on the issue during which leaders reiterated their national positions as expressed in other fora. It then says:
“… Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks. There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognizing that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.” [i]
The wording of the paragraph reflects a good compromise. On the one hand, it underlines the strong position Western countries have taken against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and on the other hand, it says that some other G20 members have different views and assessments. What is important is that the views and assessments of the latter are not defined in the strong language used in the definition of the position taken by the former. This should also be taken as an indication that China and others while refraining from openly condemning Russia, they are not happy with the war and its economic implications.
In Bali, the G20 committed to strengthening multilateral trade and the resilience of global supply chains, supporting long-term growth, taking action to promote food and energy security, supporting the stability of markets, and furthering investments for low- and middle-income and other developing countries. They also reiterated their commitment to achieving global net zero greenhouse gas emissions/carbon neutrality by or around mid-century and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and its temperature goal. Hopefully, strategic competition and political differences will not continue to undermine cooperation in those areas.
The highlight of the G20 summit was the meeting of presidents Biden and Xi, which despite the diametrically opposing views on Taiwan, was generally seen in a positive light. In remarks to the press after the meeting, President Biden said that Washington’s One China policy has not changed, that the US opposes a unilateral change in the status quo by either side and remains committed to maintaining the peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits. He also said, “I was also clear that China and the United States should be able to work together where we can to solve global challenges that require every nation to do its part.”[ii]
The White House readout of the meeting also said that President Biden told his counterpart that the US will continue to compete vigorously with the PRC but also underscored that the United States and China must work together to address transnational challenges – such as climate change, global macroeconomic stability including debt relief, health security, and global food security – because that is what the international community expects.[iii]
The Chinese readout said, “President Xi pointed out that the world is at a major inflection point in history. Countries need to both tackle unprecedented challenges and seize unprecedented opportunities. This is the larger context in which we should view and handle China-U.S. relations. China-U.S. relations should not be a zero-sum game where one side out-competes or thrives at the expense of the other. The successes of China and the United States are opportunities, not challenges, for each other.” [iv]
Regarding Taiwan, the Chinese readout said:
“President Xi gave a full account of the origin of the Taiwan question and China’s principled position. He stressed that the Taiwan question is at the very core of China’s core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations. Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese and China’s internal affair… We hope to see, and are all along committed to, peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, but cross-Strait peace and stability and “Taiwan independence” are as irreconcilable as water and fire.”
Interestingly, neither the US readout nor President Biden in remarks to the press mentioned the “rules-based international order” that China and Russia have strongly rejected all along. The Chinese readout said that Beijing is committed to deepening and expanding global partnerships, safeguarding the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order underpinned by international law.
And the Bali Leaders’ Declaration which again gives the impression of a compromise said, “It is essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability. This includes defending all the Purposes and Principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and adhering to international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and infrastructure in armed conflicts. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.” (emphasis added)
Thus, the expression “rules-based international order”, a recurrent theme in policy statements of the Biden administration and G7 communiques did not make it to the Leaders’ Declaration which is more a reflection of how Beijing and Moscow view the global order.[v] The expression had inherent contradictions to start with since Western countries had violated those very rules themselves in the recent past. It seems that in return, Western countries got what they wanted concerning respect for humanitarian law, the protection of civilians and infrastructure in armed conflict, and the inadmissibility of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, both related to the war in Ukraine.
As for Türkiye, the Bali Leaders’ Declaration welcomed the Türkiye and UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative. Moreover, last Wednesday President Erdogan and the UN announced that the deal has been extended for an additional 120 days.
On November 15, following the Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure, the leaders of Canada, the European Commission, the European Council, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the US met in Bali and released a statement condemning the attacks. The statement’s title was, “Joint Statement of NATO and G7 Leaders on the Margins of the G20 Summit in Bali”. NATO member Türkiye’s absence at the meeting only raises questions.
During the Bali summit, President Erdogan had bilateral meetings with other leaders including President Biden. The Ankara and Washington readouts of the meeting suggest that Mr. Biden promised Mr. Erdogan his Administration’s support for Türkiye’s F-16 modernization program and asked for Ankara’s approval of Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership. A day after their meeting, US Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, repeated his pledge that he will veto F-16 jet sales to Turkey. In brief, no progress in Turkey-US relations.