TCSS Security Commentaries #027

G-20, a forum for forging compromises between the emerging and the developed world, is now an outlet to manifest their disagreements.

Bruno Magno, MoFA Taiwan Fellow

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi at the opening ceremony of the G-20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali. (Source:

Most western news outlets denounce the possible failure of the upcoming G-20 summit to be held on November 15th in Bali, Indonesia, due to the ongoing Russian aggression on Ukraine and Indonesia’s lacking diplomatic skills. The latter is just a sign of prejudice of western news outlets. Indonesia has a proven record of its diplomacy since the 1950s. The country was one of the leaders of the non-aligned movement, is a prominent ASEAN leader, and has a foreign policy that navigates turbulent waters between the major powers of the moment. However, the Russian war on Ukraine may soon reshape the role of the G-20 and other multilateral fora.

The G-20 Foreign Ministers and Financial Ministers meetings were held on July 7th and 13th, respectively. The Russian participation in the meetings and the Ukraine question dominated the agenda of both the meetings. Western countries floated the idea of boycotting the G-20 meetings if their demand to expel Russia from the forum is not adhered to. Nevertheless, all member countries attended and exchanged accusations, the main agenda was not tackled, and no joint communiqué was released. Any agreement regarding food crisis, inflation surge, or supply chain crisis will have to wait.

Wang Yi held bilateral meetings with his Australian and American counterparts. China and Australia successfully established a plan to engage in consultations and reduce the possibility of escalation. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese FM Wang Yi held in-person talks for the first time since October 2021 in Rome.

G-20 Summit is considered the main forum for economic, trade, and financial articulation between the biggest economies in the world and the main arena of debate between developed and emerging powers. After the failed American bid to sustain a unipolar world in the 2000s, the emerging powers of the time demanded more representation in the current financial and trade system. That was reached by including China (2001) and Russia (2012) in the WTO, expanding the voting powers of emerging countries in the World Bank and the IMF, and elevating the G-20 as the main forum for articulating trade and economic policies. This development at the time seemed to represent an acknowledgment of the US’ leadership status in the International System and a general consensus around the Bretton Woods systems.

The 2008 financial crisis deteriorated US unipolarity. In addition, international tensions such as the Georgian War, Crimean Annexation, China’s brinkmanship in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, and the Ukrainian War further weakened the existing multilateral system in resolving the tensions between the established and emerging powers. It is particularly evident in the financial, economic, and trade spheres.

Emerging countries gained very little representation in the Bretton Woods system. The current energy and technological transition and building new green economy infrastructure based on the 4.0 industry require huge credit apports- the ongoing US-China strategic rivalry stalls such progress. The great power competition resulted in at least two coexisting infrastructure networks and standards represented initially by US’ B3W initiative and China’s BRI. Rival infrastructure initiatives are changing the perceptions of regional countries toward multilateral initiatives. The US is reinvigorating old security alliances, such as NATO, AUKUS, and Quad, expanding their attributions to include a comprehensive Indo-Pacific Strategy. China is betting on strengthening the Beijing-centered regional institutions, such as the SCO, and emerging powers, such as the BRICs. Recently, China proposed Global Security Initiative to counter the US-led Indo-Pacific Strategy and attract developing countries into its orbit.

G-20, a forum for forging compromises between the emerging and the developed world, is now an outlet to manifest their disagreements. Not that this new function could not have its role. Nevertheless, the locus for constructing new regimes and compromises seems to shift towards regional organizations and fora with a clear division between emerging and developed powers. Against such a backdrop, the G-20 summit in Bali is very unlikely to act on major global challenges, such as the global supply chain crisis, food security, and energy security. In the future, the G-20 Bali summit can be earmarked as the end of the globalized world as we know it and the start of a new standard for international relations.