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Like a G20: Far East Movement on the World Stage

4 Nov 2010

Like all international organizations, the G20 is hardly immune to the criticism of being too “Western” or “neoliberal.” With that said, the second of this year’s G20 meetings will be held November 11th and 12th in Seoul, South Korea, marking the first time that the meeting will be held in a country that is not also a member of the G8.

This move, along with others being initiated by Seoul, signals a rise in prominence of Asian political powers in the world economic forum.

In response to the critique that the G20 is too Eurocentric, the Netherlands has not been invited (as they always are) and instead Singapore and Vietnam have been asked to attend as non-members. Singapore’s presence is a recognition of its status as a global economic center, as affirmed by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. Vietnam, on the other hand, is currently the chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

South Korea’s chief negotiator, Rhee Chang-yong, said at a press conference in Seoul that these efforts were all part of the G20’s focus on broadening its “geographical balance.” South Korea, along with its G20 partners (Indonesia, Japan, and China), should take this opportunity to reaffirm the importance of Asia’s rise in this microcosm of the world’s economy.

Supported by the attendance of delegations from Singapore and Vietnam, a newly Asian-focused conference adds weight to the argument that the Far East is moving up and that the West lacks absolute control while everyone else (Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East) is stuck in some form of purgatory until their fates are decided by one or the other.

However, Asia can and should use its voice to tackle the group’s global issues proactively and responsibly to show that a shift in world polarity is not a signal of the West’s demise, but an opportunity to restructure international cooperation in the form of such collaborative institutions as the G20, IMF, World Bank, UN, OECD, and WTO away from their neocolonial framework of development.

Maybe they can start by adopting Hello Kitty themed dossiers for all attendees.

Nathan Bullock is a Fulbright Fellow based in Singapore, researching human and cultural geography, urbanization, and critical studies. Read about his adventures at East Coast Elitist.

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