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China Wields Power as G20 Leaders Prepare for France

French policemen check identity papers and cars in La Turbie, southeastern France, near the Franco-Italian border, in spite of the EU's passport-free zone Schengen, as security measures are taken ahead of the G20 Summit of Cannes, October 31, 2011.

Leaders of the G20 group of industrialized nations will meet in France later this week - with the threat of another economic crisis still looming over the world economy. The summit comes just days after European countries held an emergency meeting to try to save the euro currency.

The resort of Cannes is best known as a billionaire’s playground.

This week it’s austerity on the agenda, as G20 leaders gather here to discuss the dark shadows hanging over the world economy.

Twelve thousand French police will be backed by special forces and helicopter teams to keep the expected protesters at bay.

With the euro debt crisis still unresolved, there could be plenty of conflict within the summit, says Stephanie Rickard of the London School of Economics.

“This is the opportunity for the G20 partners to weigh in on how they feel about the eurozone debt deal," said Rickard. "I think behind closed doors there will be very frank, very difficult discussions about the actual details of the program. Where’s the money going to come from? How’s it going to work? Is it going to contain the crisis within the eurozone? In public, they are going to be very careful about presenting a unified front, they’re going to try to be as optimistic as they can so that they don’t sink the eurozone deal.”

European leaders agreed last week on a deal to try to stop the euro debt crisis spreading. Central to the plan is the beefing up of the EU’s bailout fund.

Europe is looking east to countries like China for help. It’s not yet clear if they will ride to Europe’s rescue, says Tobias Blattner of Daiwa Capital Markets.

“At the G20 summit what we are really looking out for is some kind of commitment and real figures coming from these countries, that they clearly state that they will give money in order to support the euro area. And that is the next event that markets are looking out for,” said Blattner.

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Austria Monday before heading to Cannes.
The Chinese currency has long been a bone of contention at G20 summits.

Europe and the United States accuse Beijing of keeping the Yuan artificially low to aid exports.

“China’s in a very interesting position. China has some power potentially," added Stephanie Rickard of the London School of Economics. "They can provide the resources to help bailout the eurozone economies, but in return they’re going to be asking for some leniency on the currency issue and potentially more power at the international bargaining table.”

After the late night euphoria at the euro meeting last week, investors are now looking to the G20 for detail on who will pay what.

If that’s not forthcoming - analysts warn the chink of economic light emerging from Brussels will quickly be extinguished on the French Riviera.