What to expect from G20 2019

What is the news going into the international finance event of the year?

Christian Patterson
2019-06-25
Underground Mall

G20 is coming up, and while this blog is normally analytic and reflective – looking back on things and analyzing them – I figured it would be good to do a preview of G20, because it’s sure to entail a lot of political intrigue. To do so, I’ve aggregated some of the news around it, to see what is likely to be highlights.

G20 is the meeting of twenty world leaders from the twenty largest economies in the world. They bring their financial advisers to discuss global capitalism. G20 is an extension of G8, which was the same idea, but the eight largest economies. The G8 is now G7, because Russia has been removed, but G20 is the more important global forum anyway.

Riots? Hong Kong’s extradition bill?

G20 summits are also known for having riots in the same city, at the same time. The most notable examples are G20 2009 riot in London, the G20 2010 riot in Toronto, and the G20 2017 riot in Hamburg.

So, will there be riots at the 2019 G20 summit in Osaka? My guess is probably not, or at least, not on the scale of those other three riots.

If there are riots, I don’t think they will be anti-capitalist in nature – I think they will be anti-China in nature. Most of the writing leading up to the G20 – both about protests/riots, and the summit in general – has been about Hong Kong’s new extradition bill. And protesting against the extradition bill continiues in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Free Press writes:

More protests against Hong Kong’s extradition bill have been planned ahead of the G20 summit in Japan this week in an attempt to pressure the local government and Beijing.

One of the protest calls was made by a group of anonymous demonstrators on a Telegram messaging channel, urging people to gather at Chater Garden at 9am on Wednesday. They plan to walk to 19 foreign consulates to submit petition letters, urging them to press Chinese President Xi Jinping over Hong Kong issues at the G20 summit on Friday and Saturday.

This comes after many reports that President Xi will not allow discussion of Hong Kong at G20.

Here is a quote from China’s Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Jun, from Reuters:

“What I can tell you for sure is that G20 will not discuss the Hong Kong issue. We will not allow G20 to discuss the Hong Kong issue,” Zhang said, when asked whether Trump and Xi would discuss Hong Kong at the G20.

“Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region. Hong Kong matters are purely an internal affair due China. No foreign country has a right to interfere,” Zhang said.

“No matter at what venue, using any method, we will not permit any country or person to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Considering this is the discourse leading into G20, I do feel like there could be some protests of the G20, but probably not riots. However, if they’re protesting against China, specifically, there are two problems with that from my perspective.

First, as a Marxist, I always prefer an explicitly anti-Capitalist riot or protest.

But second, anti-Chinese sentiment is incredibly common in Japan, and it tends to be a real pressure point for far-right Japanese. The last thing I’d want is anti-G20 protests to take the character of Japanese Nationalism.

But again, I don’t see that happening on any major or disruptive scale.

China: “Friendship ended with U.S., now Japan is my best friend”

Another news story is that Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi are looking to strength relations at G20.

CNBC writes:

Analysts say reasons for the rapprochement include economic interdependence, a need to focus on the future and the emergence of an unforeseen wild card: the 2016 election of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose presence in Osaka looms large for both men.

“The greatest impetus for warming Sino-Japanese relations is their realization that China and Japan need to cooperate with each other more closely in the face of their changing relations with the United States, ” Victor Teo, an assistant professor in the Department of Japanese Studies at the University of Hong Kong, told CNBC in an email.

Here’s my take on this: Japanese anti-Chinese sentiment grew in the 2000s, and I think the only way to interpret that (aside from far-right, Japanese World War 2 revisionism) is anxiety about China’s economy surpassing Japan’s.

Japan has long been a capitalist state associate of the US. The way to interpret the post-WW2 geopolitics of East Asia, is the US entered East Asia, deposed Japan as the regional imperial-capitalist force, and became their replacement. The US took control of former Japanese colonies like Philippines and South Korea.

In exchange for the US becoming the global imperialist-capitalist master, Japan became a more regional capitalist power. Japan is allowed to exert capitalist interest in East Asia, but aren’t allowed to compete with or challenge the US’s imperialist-capitalist interests.

But now, Japan realizes it’s an aging country with less economic control than they once had. This is a reality that Japanese people seem to be grappling with, and slowly accepting. This, in combination with US’s volatility as the imperialist-capitalist master, is leading Japan to turn to China.

Think about it like this: if Japan is distrustful of the US, but still don’t want to formally “break up”, they have to find another massive collection of national-capital to associate themselves with. Entering a more bilateral arrangement with China allows them a way out of the potentially sinking American ship.

End of Japan Defense Pact

This week, Trump has apparently been talking about getting rid of the Japan Defense Pact, which was an agreement after WW2 that the US would protect Japan, as long as they let US keep military bases there. This policy goes hand-in-hand with Japan’s policy of keeping a small, defense-only military.

Bloomberg writes:

President Donald Trump has recently mused to confidants about withdrawing from a longstanding defense treaty with Japan, according to three people familiar with the matter, in his latest complaint about what he sees as unfair U.S. security pacts.

Trump regards the accord as too one-sided because it promises U.S. aid if Japan is ever attacked, but doesn’t oblige Japan’s military to come to America’s defense, the people said. The treaty, signed more than 60 years ago, forms the foundation of the alliance between the countries that emerged from World War II.

Realistically, this won’t happen. But it does gesture to, and is exemplary of, Japan’s uneasiness with Trump’s America, as mentioned previously.

Japan depends on the American imperialist network for retaining their dominant regional position in East Asia. But Japan doesn’t need the US anymore than the US needs Japan. Before the 80s, Japan was more dependent on the US, and in the 80s, Japan was a projected superpower.

Now, Japan is a a medium-sized country, with the third-highest GDP. They’re in the geopolitical orbit with China, the second-highest GDP. Naturally, with the US’s international economic flailing, Japan will want to flirt with working with China, as the relationship between China and US become more tumultuous. It’s a natural choice.

Saudi Arabia and Iran

Now, there are several potential stories leading into G20, but China, Japan, and the US seem to be the focal point. However, Trump also drew some attention for what he wants, and doesn’t want, to talk to Saudi Prince Salman about.

USA Today writes:

In addition to Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Donald Trump’s list of meetings at this week’s G-20 summit will include the Saudi Arabia leader accused of authorizing the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – though that subject is not on their agenda.

Instead, Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman are scheduled to discuss Iran and its threat to renew a program that could be used to make nuclear weapons, said administration officials who disclosed parts of the president’s G-20 schedule on Monday.

This casts a dark pall over the G20, because to me, it seems very likely that the US will now go to war with Iran. I also think it probably won’t happen until after the G20 summit (not like we have much time). But, MBS will certainly bait the US even closer to war, if they haven’t already internally decided it’ll happen.

I don’t have much more to say about Iran now, and I will write more about it, once we have a better idea how it pans out. I point it out here, because even though the politics of East Asia are changing tumultuously (read my post before this one to read about how these geopolitics are effecting Taiwan)

But that should about cover the threads leading into the G20 summit I’m following most. If there are interesting developments, especially with regards to other countries that will be present, I will post about those as well.

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