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The Global South's significance in an era of geopolitical competition

Jian Junbo

A view of St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2024. /CFP
A view of St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2024. /CFP

A view of St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2024. /CFP

Editor's note: Jian Junbo, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is an associate professor and deputy director of the Center for China-Europe Relations at Fudan University. He is also under-secretary-general of the Shanghai Institute for European Studies. The article reflects the author's views and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The 27th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), being held in Russia from June 5-8, is expected to help Russia enhance its ties with the markets in the Global South economically and provide chances of expanding its foreign relations politically. The forum, taking place against the backdrop of profound changes in the international situation, suggests that the trend of great power competition is intensifying. In this context, China also needs to strengthen its relations with the Global South.

SPIEF's great significance to Russia

Since the breakout of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia's economic relations with Europe and the United States have deteriorated quickly. For example, in 2021, the EU-Russia trade volume reached 257.5 billion euros ($280 billion), yet in 2023, it was only around 89 billion euros, according to a report on Baidu. In this situation, promoting relations with non-Western markets is of great significance for Russia's economic development and the SPIEF is an important opportunity for Russia to do so, especially enhancing ties with emerging economies.

Diplomatically, due to the sanctions imposed by the EU and the U.S., Russia's relations with Western countries are deadlocked. The SPIEF, which has invited many leaders from non-Western countries, is significant for Russia to maintain relatively normal foreign relations with the outside world.

The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy in Moscow, Russia, May 13, 2024. /Xinhua
The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy in Moscow, Russia, May 13, 2024. /Xinhua

The Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy in Moscow, Russia, May 13, 2024. /Xinhua

SPIEF denotes rising geopolitical competition

In consideration of the competition of the great powers in the world, the SPIEF can be regarded as a Russian measure to win the support of Global South countries and expand its economic and even political influence among those nations. In fact, several powers are vying for the support of the South. The U.S., the EU and Japan are re-shaping their relations with Africa, the ASEAN, Latin America and Arab countries, adjusting their policies toward these regions.

For example, the EU is stepping up its efforts to promote "partnership" with Africa and economic partnership agreement negotiations with many emerging economies. The U.S. is also readjusting its African and Asian policies, such as its "Indo-Pacific strategy." Some non-Western powers are also vying for better relations with the Global South countries, India being a case in point.

In 2023, India organized the Voice of Global South Summit in virtual format, which indicates its ambition to compete for international influence and power. Therefore, the SPIEF has become a platform for communication amid increasingly strong geopolitical competition.

Closer ties between China and rest of Global South

China will always be a member of the Global South. Faced with the changing dynamics of international society, China needs to develop closer economic, political and even military ties with the bloc.

First of all, it is important for China's high-standard opening-up. Recently, due to the "de-risk" policy of the EU and U.S. toward China, China's ties with them are encountering many challenges and becoming more complicated. The market connection between China and Europe and the United States is declining. Therefore, to ensure the stability of its foreign relations and maintain high-quality opening-up, China must strengthen its ties with the vast Global South.

Moreover, this is an indispensable way for China to promote sustainable economic development. By engaging in multi-field and multi-level cooperation with other developing economies, China can make up for the losses caused by the EU and United States' protectionist policies.

Third, it is necessary for China to ensure a good international environment for itself. China's strengthening of market ties with the Global South on the principle of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation will help sound development of China-Global South relations, which is crucial to create a friendly and stable external environment for China.

To this end, China needs to better promote its relations with the Global South by investing in more resources and maintaining deep communication. However, while strengthening its relations with the group, China should not seek to promote rivalry with the West. Strengthening relations with the Global South does not mean giving upon stable ties with the West. Chinese businesses should try their best to maintain contact with the European and American markets, which will help maximize China's economic interests and eventually prove to be beneficial for the West.

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