In a recent blog post, “To Enlarge; or not to Enlarge - That is a Question“, I looked at current G7/8 members, their views of G7/8 enlargement and the Heiligendamm process.

The G7/8 discussion begins with two questions: Does the G8 constitute a Great power club with adequate authority and influence to act as a significant institution of global management? If not what membership and enlargement does the G8 need to address the legitimacy/effectiveness dimensions of this international organization?

The second question is does the Heiligendamm Process - this structured dialogue - provide an enlargement path for G7/8 - leaving aside for the moment the O5 composition?

One possibility, as Andrew Cooper implies in his introductory chapter in the Heiligendamm Process and Beyond, and the other country chapters that I have examined in past blog posts - is that HP principally remains a structured dialogue with little or no likelihood of G7/8 enlargement.

Turning to the O5, John Kirton in his chapter from the same volume, “From G8 2003 to G13 2010? The Heiligendamm Process’s Past, Present and Future,” describes in some detail the engagement of the O5 in the HP process: “The process began when O5 finance ministers joined the G20 ministers in 1999. A further step was taken in 2005 when the O5 ministers joined the G7 finance ministers. “It was elevated to the leaders’ level when the O5 came to the G8 Evian-les-Bains Summit in 2003 and regularly from 2005 to 2007. The launch of the officials’ level Heiligendamm Process thus represents the latest major step forward in this process of partnership between established and emerging powers.”

For John Kirton there appears to be a plan and process toward enlargement. But Kirton is not teleological when it comes to the HP process and the likelihood that this process will lead to enlargement.

As he says, “Should the O5 members continue to emerge as major powers and acquire global reach and responsibility and political openness, the G8 will eventually be well positioned to take a great leap forward towards a G13. But there is still strong competition from alternative formulae for expansion, and it is too soon to tell if the G13 will eventually win. ”

Ambivalence pervades the G7/8. But skepticism is the key to understanding the O5 and their attitudes. As Andrew Cooper suggests in his introduction, “Despite their common status as emerging powers, an image far less contestable from a diplomatic than an economic analysis, all continue to have a great deal of their international identity shaped by their position either as or in solidarity with developing countries.” The O5 support for developing countries and the demands for structural changes and greater equality does vary but each member of the O5 references commitment to the developing countries of the international system.

Any examination of the O5 suggests Gregory Chin in his chapter on China sees at least the trilateral group struggling over their position on the G7/8, “All three B(R)ICs countries [Brazil, India and China] are grappling with trying to reconcile their identity as a member of the Third World/”Global South”/developing world and their ‘emerging power’ status - or de facto Great Power, in the Chinese case.”

Looking at individual O5 powers, China for strong ideological reasons has approached the G8 with reserve and caution. Though commentators and Chinese international relations experts originally rejected Chinese inclusion in the G8, opinion apparently has evolved significantly.

Now while the current leadership still remains committed to the south and the developing world it would appear that Chinese opinion makers support China’s inclusion in the future though on the basis of a significant membership enlargement that would include China but also include other large emerging economies.

India and Brazil have retained as strong focus on solidarity with the developing world. As Andrew Hurrell of Oxford University’s Centre for International Studies at the Department of Politics and International Relations and Centre for International Studies has argued in a 2006 article in International Affairs, ” Hegemony, liberalism and global order: What space for would-be great powers?,” Brazil and India are in a different category for a further reason. On the one hand, they can be seen—and like to see themselves—as potential major powers, both within their regions and more generally. But on the other hand, they have identified themselves more specifically as developing countries and have understood their foreign policy options through the prism of North–South relations. This has been a persistent theme in the case of India; in the case of Brazil it has been a more ambiguous one, but one that is clearly in the ascendant under the present government. But is the language of Third Worldism and southern solidarity simply a hangover from the past? … what happens if that ‘developing country identity’ comes into conflict with the ‘aspiring great power identity’?” (See full cite below)

At least among the ‘big three’ of the O5 there is an ineluctable tension between their growing identities as newly emerging Great powers, and impliedly their desire to be part of the Great power club and, at least rhetorically, their commitment to the developing world and to the demands for an agenda ‘geared’ to the demands of the globe’s least prosperous.

In a follow up blog post we will examine the final O5 countries.

Andrew Hurrell, “Hegemony, liberalism and global order: What space for would-be great powers?” International Affairs Vol. 82, No. 1 (2006) pp. 1-19

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