Brexit, carpets and much ado about nothing! Sounds like the G20 Summit this year was a cracker.
Even before the G20 Summit began, there was media interest, focused on the Chinese government and their decision to seemingly remove half of Hangzhou’s population. The government in an attempt to lure away most of its citizens issued a public holiday. The thinking behind this idea was that the citizens would leave the city to go on holiday. This would mean that the factories would be closed and thus the visible pollution would be gone by the time the world’s leaders and media arrived in Hangzhou.
The media focus was also how or if the world’s leaders would discuss the issues surrounding China in recent months, namely the huge dumping of cheap Chinese steel on the steel market earlier this year which has caused tremendous problems for European steel workers. Additionally, the media focused on the more recent events around the South China Sea and the illegal expansion from China which has occurred there.
Strangely enough neither of these topics were discussed by the politicians and bureaucrats, at least they weren’t discussed openly.
Normally when the leader of the free world arrives in another country, they are welcomed with respect, ceremonial pomp, and a red carpet. This was not so for Obama when his plane landed in Hangzhou airport with was no red carpet. To add to insult Obama had to use the inner staircase near the tail-gate of the plane. Many speculate that this was a deliberate snub to Obama and America by the Chinese as mistakes like this aren’t made by the Chinese government who had 365 days to prepare for the G20.
Obama brushed off this inconvenience and replied ‘I wouldn’t over crank the significance’ when answering a question about his arrival in Hangzhou. The Chinese government said they were never asked by Obama’s team for a red carpet. They also said that there were some language barrier problems with the driver and the American president’s team, and this caused the ‘cock-up’ with the carpet.
Brexit; the unexpected result of a career-ending decision by David Cameron to have a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. The ripples of this decisions are so widespread that it was the main feature of the G20 summit.
Obama’s reiterated his comments from a few months ago by saying that America will make trade deals with the EU before considering trade deals with the U.K. However, Obama also confirmed that there was still a ‘very special relationship’ between the U.S. and the U.K. Phew! I (an Englishman) can finally sleep easier knowing that the centuries long ‘special relationship’ isn’t ruined by a referendum result.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe was less diplomatic when discussing Brexit and made a warning towards the new British Prime Minister, saying that Japanese corporations will exit the UK unless Britain adopts a ‘soft Brexit.’ This would mean maintaining as many ties with the single market as Britain had before the Brexit result, a proposition which would have many Brexit voters furious.
Teresa May tried to calm and ease the world’s worry from the Brexit result by suggesting that Britain would still play a ‘full role’ in global politics. However, in typical Teresa fashion, she would not be pushed around or look to make friends. She said that Britain would come to a decision on Brexit in her own time.
The Hinkley nuclear plant
The Hinkley nuclear power plant, a British new power plant of which China are the leading investors in was discussed at the G20 Summit. Teresa May gave no decisions on whether she would allow the Chinese investment. Discussions must have been progressive between the two nations as a week after the G20, Teresa May stopped dilly-dallying and gave the green light to the Chinese to invest in the Hinkley plant.
G20, the verdict
The G20 Summit in Hangzhou was a rather dull and boring event. As well as being bland and complicated to most people, this years G20 was particularly sparse of interesting news. A factor for this could be that journalists were kept largely in the dark around what was happening and this meant that there was less coverage of this event. Thankfully.
Arthur Kroeber, a respected political researcher, wrote ‘Another year, another G20, another yawn’ which satirically and appropriately sums up this year’s G20.