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The Clash of Summits: The G7 Charlevoix Summit and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit

Alissa Wang, G7 Research Group
June 9, 2018

On June 8-9, 2018, world leaders met in Canada for the G7 Charlevoix Summit. Overlapping, on June 9-10, is the 17th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, being held in Qingdao, China. Whether this timing was intentional remains unclear, but the extent of this "clash" between these two summits extends beyond their coincidental timing. The ways in which these summits approach common global issues of this particular time provide insights into the two different global orders on the world stage. At present, several imminent global issues loom over both summits. In the economic sphere, U.S. trade policies raise concerns for G7 and SCO members alike. On the security front, both summits are overshadowed by concerns about the Korean peninsula and the Iran nuclear deal. In addition to these imminent threats are important long-term global challenges that require cooperative action such as climate change, economic growth and development. Together, these issues will shape discussions and the overall atmosphere of both the G7 and the SCO summits, although in different ways.

The G7 is a club of the world's richest and most powerful developed countries. The Charlevoix Summit under the Canadian presidency set forth an agenda with five key themes: inclusive growth; jobs for the future; gender equality; climate change, clean energy and clean oceans; and peace and security. There was a strong focus on gender equality in particular, as it is a cross-cutting theme in all issue areas. Trudeau emphasized that gender equality was a focus despite "Trump's distractions." However, so far, despite achievements in pushing the gender agenda forward, this was not enough to overshadow divisions created by Trump's "America first" approach to global governance. Trade, for example, remains an area of contention as all six other G7 members are negatively affected by U.S. tariffs. Trump's new suggestion of bringing Russia back into the G7 into the old G8 has led to diverging opinions among G7 members. On the issue of North Korea, it remains unclear how the summit will address this threat given the rising concerns of the United States and Japan. In fact, Trump left the G7 summit early, and was thus absent from the G7's climate discussions, in order to attend a meeting with the North Korean leader in Singapore.

The SCO is a much newer summit organization formed in 2001, with China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the newly admitted members of India and Pakistan. It includes four observer states of Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia. The 2018 Qingdao Summit, hosted by China, boasts an ambitious agenda. Most importantly, and in strong contrast with the G7, it aims, with a promising outlook, to reach consensus on cooperation. On security, China, as host, aims to deal with the issues of terrorism, extremism, separatism, drug trafficking and cyber security. There will likely be a supportive consensus on the Iran nuclear deal, especially from Russia and China. It also aims to address issues of development through a new blueprint for the regional community, in particular with the China-led Belt and Road Initiative. To many observers, the SCO summit has been characterized as the testing ground for China's global governance concept of the "community of common destiny for humankind," which stems from China's call for a more just and inclusive world order. The Belt and Road Initiative would be the developmental and economic blueprint at the backbone of this new community. Overall, China's agenda is about novelty, which takes the form of the creation of a new international order that focuses on the "common destiny," in a way that transcends the operation of self interest, in strong contrast with Trump's America First attitude.

Overall, the co-occurrence of these summits presents an interesting phenomenon. While the G7 Charlevoix Summit had to deal with the developed world that is slowly fragmenting, the Qingdao Summit, on the other hand, is centred on managing a gradually uniting and expanding bloc of developing countries and emerging economies. In this sense, China's SCO summit is about community building. The summit's conclusion may give insights into how China will create this new "community of common destiny" and what precisely this entails. Common imminent issues that will overshadow both summits, such as trade and security, are creating divisions within the G7 while at the same time bringing SCO members closer together. How these forces will play out is something to look forward to in the outcome documents of these summits.

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Alissa WangAlissa Wang is the chair of summit studies for the BRICS Research Group, and a research assistant at the G7 Research Group, the G20 Research Group and the Global Health Diplomacy Program, based at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Trinity College at the University of Toronto. She is pursuing a combined JD/PhD degree in political science with a focus on international relations and comparative politics. She was an editor for the reports produced by the G20 Research Group summit studies team, an analyst for the G7 Research Group summit studies team, and works on compliance research. Alissa is interested in Chinese history and politics as well as China's role in global governance. She was a member of the field teams at the G7 summits at Schloss Elmau in Germany in 2015, in Ise Shima in Japan in 2016 and in Charlevoix in 2018, and at the G20 summits in Hangzhou in China in 2016 and Hamburg in Germany in 2017.


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