The first G20 meeting, last fall, appropriately took place in Washington. But holding this second conclave in Beijing would have signalled a clear recognition that the Washington-Beijing axis is the most important relationship in the world today; it is the X factor in the quest to rescue the global economy. If the two powerhouses work together, the world may yet emerge prosperous and stable. If they work at cross purposes, the world’s future will be as grim as the gloomiest doomsayers forecast.
Can they do it? Some look at the relationship and see only complications, worrying that if China sells off or stops buying U.S. bonds, the American economy could sink even deeper, leaving us like England at the end of War World II, a broke and broken hegemon, dependent on an upstart power. The parallel overlooks one critical difference: Today, China needs the United States as much as the United States needs China. This isn’t codependence; it’s interdependence, especially since the rest of the world needs both of them equally.
For Beijing and Washington to pull the world out of this Great Recession, they must overcome both mutual suspicion and self-perceptions that are quickly losing validity.