The Naked Emperor returns and other Musings
U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, Indonesia, November 14, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The World Around Us
November 18, 2022
The Naked Emperor returns and other Musings

There seems to never be a dull moment in global politics. This past week alone saw the annual summit of the Group of 20 (G20) leaders, a new and potentially dangerous turn in the ongoing war in Ukraine and Donald Trump’s entry into the next United States Presidential elections. 

The G20, a grouping of twenty of the world’s largest economies formed in 1999, held its annual summit from 15-16 November in Bali, Indonesia under the theme “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”. This overarching theme was collapsed into three thematic priorities – Global Health Architecture, Sustainable Energy Transition, and Digital Transformation.

The meeting of G20 leaders was significant in many respects, but perhaps none more so than the signalling of détente between the United States (US) and China as the leaders of both countries met ahead of the summit. Among other things, Presidents Biden and Xi pledged that the US and China will work together on global challenges such as climate change and food security.

Of late, the relationship between the world’s two largest economies has been tense due to competing visions of the world, issues surrounding Taiwan, trade tensions and broader geopolitical concerns in the South China Sea and elsewhere. Key differences remain and issues such as the tensions over Taiwan will not disappear overnight.

Nonetheless, it appears that for now, there is a chance that the temperature will drop in the US-China relationship, opening the door for both countries to press the reset button.

Turning to the war in Ukraine, things took an even more dangerous turn this past week after what appeared to be a Russian made missile landed in Poland, killing two people.

This development had the potential to escalate a war which for now, has been contained within Ukraine’s borders, beyond them, and in the process, draw nuclear armed powers into direct conflict.

Thankfully, Poland and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, including the US, seemed to maintain a level head, initially responding in a measured way. That initial US assessments indicated that the missile that hit Poland originated in Ukraine and was likely fired by Ukrainian troops, was a sigh of relief and justified the restrained posture adopted by NATO.

This notwithstanding, the longer the war goes on, the greater the likelihood of a miscalculation either on the side of Russia, Ukraine or NATO which can expand the conflict in dangerous ways. Any expansion of the conflict will have far more severe consequences for the world, upending financial, energy and food markets and pushing millions more in the developing world into abject poverty. The time for the war to end is long overdue.

Meanwhile, in the US, former President, Donald Trump, has announced that he will run for President again. One of the fascinating and at once scary things about Trump is his and his enablers’ capacity to ignore his nakedness. It would appear that Trump, like many politicians of his ilk, is immune to political pressure.

Trump is facing multiple federal and state investigations regarding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, his handling of sensitive government documents and his family business. Can the naked emperor be the comeback kid? Time will tell.

However, much of the world is perhaps holding its collective breath because of the implications of another possible Trump Presidency. American democracy and multilateralism are both at risk.

Joel K Richards is a Vincentian national living and working in Europe in the field of international trade and development.