The annual G20 summit, taking place in India this weekend, has highlighted the diminished status of the forum as both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have chosen to skip the event. The G20 has been seen as a prototype for a new structure of international governance, but it is clear that the veneer of ‘world government’ attached to the group is dissipating. While the G20 will not disappear completely, its influence and relevance are waning.
The G20 was established as a response to the economic setbacks of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It gained traction following the global financial crisis in 2008, as member states worked together to mitigate the panic caused by the collapse of US financial institutions. Since then, the G20 has played a central role in the international political-economic architecture.
However, the international landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Politics has taken precedence over economics, and the focus of global attention has shifted towards strategic confrontation. The concept of liberal globalization, which prioritized cost-effectiveness, is no longer sustainable. The main issue now is the West versus Russia, with a potential US-China showdown on the horizon. The institutions that upheld the rules of global economics are struggling to cope with the political demands of the largest countries.
Personal reasons may explain why leaders like Putin and Xi are absent from the current G20 summit, but the overarching reason is the end of globalization as it existed for the past few decades. The structures that were once in demand are no longer as relevant. The G20 will continue to exist, as a meeting of the world’s largest economies has inherent value. However, the notion of a ‘world government’ will fade away. Agreements between countries will become more substantive and involve a narrower circle of nations directly affected by a particular issue.
The current international dynamics have led to a strengthening of certain associations. The ‘collective West’, comprising the US and its allies, has demonstrated a potential for political consolidation against economic interests. While it is unclear how long this unity will last, it is evident that the alliance is becoming more rigid. Furthermore, a community known as the ‘World Majority’ or the ‘Global South’ is also finding ways to unite its interests. This group consists of countries not bound by relations with Washington, and while they may lack value-ideological unity, they are forming a common identity parallel to the West.
The recent BRICS summit, which focused on widening membership rather than deepening existing relationships, is indicative of this trend. While structuring this majority may be challenging, the creation of an expanding space of interaction beyond the West is in the interest of all involved. The G20 could potentially serve as a meeting place for these two communities, but given their focus on self-development, it is unlikely to be a priority.
In conclusion, the G20 summit in India highlights the diminished status of the forum. While it will not disappear completely, the veneer of ‘world government’ attached to the group is dissipating. The international landscape has shifted towards political confrontation, and the institutions that upheld global economic rules are struggling to keep up. However, new associations and communities are emerging, both in the ‘collective West’ and the ‘World Majority’, which have the potential to shape the future of international governance. The G20 will likely become more symbolic than practical, at least for the time being.