Date
22 January 2017
The G20 summit in Hangzhou turned out to be a diplomatic triumph for Beijing. It successfully blocked the discussion of controversial issues. Photo: Reuters
The G20 summit in Hangzhou turned out to be a diplomatic triumph for Beijing. It successfully blocked the discussion of controversial issues. Photo: Reuters

How China flexed its muscle at the G20 summit

The G20 summit, which ended on Sept. 5 in Hangzhou, was considered by the mainland media and officialdom as the most important international event on Chinese soil this year.

However, in contrast, the western media has remained largely indifferent.

If anything, the summit provided President Xi Jinping a rare opportunity to flex China’s diplomatic muscle as the host of the meeting and display the country’s soft power.

For example, after a meeting with US President Barack Obama, Xi announced that China and the US would approve the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The hidden message in that announcement was that China, which has the highest carbon emission per capita, and the US, the world’s largest economy, were cooperating on equal terms on major global issues.

The G20 summit also turned out to be a diplomatic triumph for Beijing.

It successfully blocked the discussion of such controversial issues as the South China Sea, the conflict between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, as well as the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.

By taking these issues off the summit agenda, China managed to avoid being ganged up on by the western powers.

China would never have been able to dictate the agenda without its rapidly growing political and economic influence.

Some experts in international relations have suggested that China is trying to incorporate its national interests and strategies, such as the “One Belt One Road” , into the existing international framework.

This is exactly what the US did after World War II.

On the other hand, the razzle-dazzle, pomp and circumstance in Hangzhou proved to be a good showcase of China’s soft power, at least from the point of view of Beijing.

However, it is important to note that the West and China have a different concept of “soft power”.

While the West often defines “soft power” in terms of cultural appeal and influence, Beijing considers “soft power” as efficiency in mobilizing people for a national cause.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 12

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RA

Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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