People smoke near a Huawei retail store in Beijing. Picture: Andy Wong/AP
President Cyril Ramaphosa will join fellow G-20 leaders at the summit to be held on June 28 and 29 in Osaka, Japan. This summit will be held against an inauspicious backdrop with the two foremost global economies locked in a trade war. The Sino-American trade war has global consequences and stems from deeper issues than those cited by the two belligerents.

Utterances coming from Washington betray paranoia, and a reluctance to admit that China is inexorably challenging a unipolar world order without changing its political identity. Writing in Foreign Affairs (January/February 2019, 40), Professor Yan Xuetong predicts that “rather than vie for global supremacy through opposing alliances, Beijing and Washington will largely carry out their competition in the economic and technological realms”.

The ongoing trade war and the three-nation Huawei saga perfectly typify Xuetong’s thesis.

Speaking at the defence summit Shangri-La, the Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien, said, “The bottom line is that the US and China need to work together, and with other countries too, to bring the global system up to date, and to not upend the system”.

Beyond Sino-American wrangling, the EU will also attend the summit, shortly after European elections in which right wing, populist and anti-immigration political groups made gains, confirming that, even though rhetoric to exit the EU might somewhat subside, anti-immigration is in vogue and is winning support across Europe.

For Africa and other emerging powers, the summit could be of great benefit if it will bring to fruition the aspirations expressed by Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. According to him, “Japan is determined to lead global economic growth by promoting free trade and innovation, achieving both economic growth and reduction of disparities, and contributing to the development agenda and other global issues with the Sustainable Development Goals at its core.”

Through these efforts, Japan seeks to realise and promote a free and open, inclusive and sustainable, “human-centred future society”.

Like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian President since January this year, has threatened to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, stating the environmental policies are suffocating and could preclude economic growth and industrialisation. For a country that was once a beacon of environmental friendliness, Brazil under Bolsonaro is increasingly becoming a threat.

The coming G-20 Summit will undeniably take place in an uncertain climate and it will be interesting to note what form the leaders’ agreement will take, if one will be agreed on.

As Africa’s only member of the G-20, South Africa carries a huge responsibility going into the summit and it will ill forget that in 2020, it will assume the presidency of the AU.

Even though Ramaphosa was only recently elected president, he will still be expected to play a leading role in championing the cause of emerging economies at the summit. The country itself faces internal economic challenges, with its growth expected to be 1% at most for 2019.

These cheerless realities form a background against which South Africa will attend the G-20. Africa, with the largest number of developing economies hopes that Abe’s expectations for the emerging economies will come to pass.

It is unfortunate that the Sino-American trade war, the Sino-Canadian diplomatic row, and the likely divergence over climate change among G-20 member states, are likely to overshadow the urgent need to take into serious cognizance the plight of emerging economies.

* Monyae is the director of the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg. He will be one of the academics speaking at the “International Forum of Building Open Global Economy” to be held in Osaka, Japan, on June 25.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.