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G-20 Summit Wraps Up In Hangzhou, China


China pulled out all the stops to host President Obama and other leaders at the G20. That's the gathering of the world's 20 leading economies. Over the past weekend, China's government sent 2 million residents of the city of Hangzhou on vacation to ensure a flawless summit. This is Obama's final trip to Asia as president. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Hangzhou for more. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So China's hosting the G20 for the first time, and what is the importance of that?

KUHN: Well, at this summit, Renee, President Xi Jinping made it clear that, from now on, the G20 and not the G7 group of industrial nations is going to be the main body for global economic governance, and China intends to play a central and active role in that. China's been pushing to get a seat at the table of rule makers that it is fitting with its status as the world's second largest economy. It's going to continue to do that.

And it's going to emphasize even more the interests of developing nations in general. There was a metaphor made last night. They took the heads of state on a boat cruise on Hangzhou's scenic West Lake. And the metaphor is that all countries are in the same boat, and China and President Xi Jinping are at its helm.

MONTAGNE: And within that, did China offer prescriptions for the world economy?

KUHN: Well, President Xi Jinping's basic message is that nations need to harness technical innovation and use all available policy tools to pump up economic growth. We need to fight a rising tide of economic protectionism. Now, Xi Jinping himself was very cautious about touting any sort of development model that China might have to offer the world, but he didn't hesitate to point out that he used to be the governor of this province that we're in now and that it made tremendous progress and advanced very quickly and became wealthy very quickly.

MONTAGNE: And President Xi and Obama did talk for hours, I gather, on Saturday night. How did that go?

KUHN: Well, both sides came out with a long list of issues on which they agreed. Most of these were economic and climate-change things. But also issued a list of things on which they did not agree - in particular, the South China Sea and human rights. China has been building on islands in the South China Sea, and it's become one of the main issues of contention between China and its neighbors and the U.S. And there's just no indication that we can see that the leaders here achieved any sort of meeting of minds.

MONTAGNE: And this is, of course, President Obama's last summit. I mean, he's effectively a lame duck. How much is China actually looking to work with him, or is it looking over his shoulder to his successor?

KUHN: Well, you know, this summit really takes precedence over everything for the moment for China, and they're not going to do anything to make waves until it's over. Now, once it is over, people are going to be watching to see if they do things like, for example, continue to build on islands in the South China Sea or continue the trial of human rights lawyers. For the U.S., of course, the timing puts into question to what extent President Obama's policy of pivoting or rebalancing America's forces in focus to Asia will continue. But I think both sides have made it very clear that they really do not want any open military confrontation, and they're both going to work to avoid it.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Anthony Kuhn speaking to us from the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China. Thank you very much.

KUHN: You're most welcome, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.