G7 to SCO: Geopolitics changing the unipolar world?

Even as the Group of Seven (G7) summit wound up fractiously in Quebec, Canada, on 9th June, 2018, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit kicked off with fireworks and fanfare in Qingdao, China.

Representing two distant corners of the world with their separate sets of allies, both summits have left a different image. While the SCO is seen as the rise of a new geopolitical equation gradually changing the unipolar world to a multi-polar one, the G7 countries have already led the world for more than half a century.

However, ending in pandemonium this year, the G7 has sparked off global concern as deep fissures were revealed in the alliance.

Constituting of seven major industrialized nations that account for more than 60 percent of the global net worth between them, the G7 group of nations was originally the G8. Having dropped off Russia in 2014, the remaining members are the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK.

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On the other hand, the SCO has come a long way from its days as the “Shanghai Five” when it was a regional group. Representing 60 percent of Eurasia, half of the global population and more than 20 percent of the world’s GDP today, the SCO has grown into a “Group of Eight” since the addition of Pakistan and India as members.

Evaluating the two power groups, firstly, a huge growth disparity is apparent between the SCO and the G7, which is now contributing lesser than usual to the global GDP despite its size.

While the US is growing at 2.3 percent, the EU at 2.5 percent and Japan at 1.6 percent in 2017, the SCO major economies, India and China are growing at 7.7 percent and 6.8 percent respectively.

Commenting on the emerging scenario, Mr. Biswas from IHS Markit said: “The rising importance of developing countries in world GDP, led by large emerging markets such as China and India, is increasing their geopolitical weight.”

While the SCO is seen as the rise of a new geopolitical equation gradually changing the unipolar world to a multi-polar one, the G7 countries have already led the world for more than half a century

Sabena Siddiqui

Workable unity

Secondly, it is worth noting the extent of workable unity within the SCO and the G7 groups, especially after the recent chaotic G7 Summit where Trump fell out with his host Trudeau over tariffs and refused to endorse a joint communique.

Anticipated to be a “tough meeting” even before it started, the G7 members had rallied up against the United States’ unilateral imposition of metal tariffs.

In contrast, the SCO meeting culminated with the issuing of a joint statement, the Qingdao Declaration which is a practical roadmap for meeting global challenges together as well as various trade and security agreements between the member countries.

Notwithstanding the historical bitterness between the new members, India and Pakistan, the SCO is capable of building fences with its provision of “Good Neighbourliness” in the SCO Charter.

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Notably, the inclusion of India has increased the economic clout of the organisation as it now has two of the fastest growing economies with China contributing nearly 30 percent of the global GDP and India accounting for 10 percent over the next decade.

Thirdly, keeping in view that this was the 44th summit of the G7 group, while it was only the 18th Summit of the SCO until now, it appears that the older alliance is simply falling apart right now while the comparatively newer alliance has consolidated itself and has a growing membership with more countries waiting to join.

Insurmountable hurdles

While facing insurmountable hurdles this year, most of the interaction between the G7 leaders was beset by a general sense of gloom and tense confrontation as the US had placed steel and aluminium tariffs on each nation.

Summing up the general feeling about the G7 Summit, Canadian President Trudeau said: “If the expectation was that a weekend in beautiful Charlevoix was going to transform the president’s outlook on trade and the world, then we didn’t quite perhaps meet that bar”.

Carrying far reaching implications, a weaker G7 reflects negatively on the US and makes it seem edgy and unpredictable, and as feared it has gone down in approval ratings since it shook up its traditional allies.

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Sorting out economic issues has been the main focus of the G7 but it is feared that with the deep divisions revealed this year the result will be a market slump and the G7 might never be the same again.

In perspective, the Pew Research Center survey held in 37 countries has to be considered whereby it discovered major shifts in how people felt about the United States all over the world.

Resuscitating the G7 will not be difficult in this initial stage, but the odds might get higher if the breach is allowed to widen.
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Sabena Siddiqui is a foreign affairs journalist and geopolitical analyst with special focus on the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC and South Asia. She tweets @sabena_siddiqi.

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Last Update: 11:41 KSA 14:41 - GMT 11:41
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