Several years ago I found myself in Shanghai at the same time as a big international conference. The whole city came alive – the additional public transport, uniform on the street and the help for visitors was beyond any delegate’s wildest dreams. The sheer numbers of people enjoying the outdoors and frequenting the restaurants was immense.
For little old me, not attending the conference, it was both exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure!
So today, on the eve of the G20 – a finance forum for the world’s major economies – I have some understanding of how Hangzhou’s 9 million residents might be feeling.
Incase you are new to Hangzhou and the G20, let’s start with the basics.
Hangzhou may not be a city that you are familiar with.
That’s because it is a ‘second tier’ city and therefore not a location with the same international name recognition as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai – all ‘first tier’ cities due to their population, size and growth domestic product.
But being a second tier city, doesn’t mean second class. Instead it means that the city has been earmarked for additional development and infrastructure, and recommended for international investment and opportunities. Some might argue that Hangzhou is a particularly good bet given its personal connection to a certain Xi Jinping, former party chief of Zhejiang Province before rising to become President of China.
Hangzhou is one of China’s ancient capitals and was the country’s historic, political and cultural heartland during the Sui and Song Dynasty. Marco Polo is said to have called it the most beautiful and magnificent city in the world and Chinese poet Yang Chaoying ranked Hangzhou just below paradise.
But whether the G20 delegates will have time to enjoy the city is another matter!
Formed in 1999, the G20 is a forum for the world’s top 20 major economies (G20 stands for Group of 20). Those economies account for 90% of the world’s domestic product and 80% of global trade. The G20 leaders meet every year, with the agenda generally set by the host, although this can depend on the pressing issues of the year.
In short, the G20 is a big deal.
And more so this year, being the last visit to China by outgoing US President Barack Obama and the first international acts of diplomacy by incoming UK Prime Minister Teresa May and Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri.
As the host, China will set the agenda, with President Xi scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the opening ceremony. He will be championing empowering emerging economies on the international stage and encouraging innovation in science, tech and development through international cooperation.
The Hangzhou G20 will be held on 4th and 5th September.
If you are in Hangzhou for the G20 – or are a resident – we’d love to hear your personal experiences in the comments below.