Charles Burton, Associate Professor of Political Science and a former counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, wrote an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail Sunday, Dec. 2 about the post-G20 summit between China and the U.S. held in Argentina Saturday.
For two-and-a-half hours Saturday night, 19 of the world’s most powerful men (10 American, nine for China), fuelled by superb Argentinian sirloin and Malbec, got down to negotiating relations between two nations that generate more than half of all global economic growth.
The focus was two strongman leaders, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, seeking to maximize their own strategic interests and defend the honour of their nations. Neither wanted look weak by too much compromise, but they were also desperate to avoid future political blame if the meeting caused a breakdown in relations, spurring downturn in their economies.
The outcome of this mano a mano has enormous implications for middle powers like Canada, and makes ever clearer that the liberal internationalist institutions we look to for fairness or stability – the United Nations, World Trade Organziations, Group of Seven and Group of 20 – are becoming irrelevant and incapable of upholding any rules-based global order, because the two superpowers are blatantly dismissive of them.
When the supper summit was over, both sides claimed victory, but Mr. Trump achieved optics of momentum by granting China’s plea for an extra 90 days to satisfy Washington’s 142 demands for major changes regarding technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, and more.