The 15th G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia saw the Covid-19 pandemic and the global economic recession dominate discussions. Speaking virtually, world leaders expressed a desire to come together to fight the pandemic and ensure a resilient recovery. French President Emmanuel Macron emphasised the need to avoid a two-speed world where only the richer nations protected themselves from the virus. Meanwhile, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping assured cooperation on Covid vaccine development and distribution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, focussed on green policies, calling for a new Global Index based on respecting nature with a spirit of trusteeship with Mother Earth.
There’s no denying that global solidarity is the need of the hour to tackle both Covid and the larger climate change problem. But the reality is that the international community is a divided house today thanks to populist nationalism. In the US, President Donald Trump – who now refuses to concede defeat in presidential polls – has for the last four years trashed multilateralism. Across the Pacific, China hasn’t helped matters either by adopting an expansionist policy, bullying weaker nations and being evasive on Covid-19. Beijing clearly wants to rewrite the rules of international engagement in its favour, whether by force or by fraud.
That said, the world’s two largest economies do need to collaborate to find solutions to the pandemic and climate change. The incoming Joe Biden administration in Washington may be amenable to this even as it looks to counter Beijing’s bullying ways and get it to adhere to international rules. Thus, the US must resume its leadership of the multilateral order and China must respect international norms. Covid and climate change show that humanity sinks or swims together.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.