Why Asia-Pacific nations don’t want to take sides in the US-China trade war at the G20


This is the third of four stories examining important issues ahead of the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump at the G20 leaders summit on June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan. Read part one here and part two here.

If the photo taken at the start of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, this week reflected diplomatic positions, Chinese President Xi Jinping would be to one side of the stage and his US counterpart Donald Trump to the other.

Somewhere in between would be the representatives of the other countries, pushed and pulled by traditional alliances, commercial priorities and future interests as the world’s two biggest economies go head to head in a trade war.

That pressure is only growing more acute, particularly for China’s neighbours, as the rivalry between the two giants goes beyond tit-for-tat tariffs to geostrategic concerns and defence issues.

One positive development is that Xi and Trump have said they will hold an extended meeting on the sidelines of the summit, raising prospects for a de-escalation in the dispute.

The two presidents set a precedent last year at the G20 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a meeting that ended in a temporary truce in the trade war.