G7 Belts China In Presence Of Friend Russia’s Enemy, Zelenskyy

China appears helpless and seething following the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, Japan. India, its bete noire on the border, was an invitee. Worse, Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine who is challenging China’s best friend Russia with the help of the combined West, was a special invitee. To add insult to injury, the meeting issued the strongest condemnation to date of the military and security threats China poses to the international community.

In early May, before the G7 meeting, the Asean members met in Indonesia. The members are those China wants to befriend or even control through friendly finances through the BRI in order to project its influence. It found some success when Malaysia’s head of government visited Beijing and returned with a huge financial package deal. But that was small change for China compared to even a neutral response from G7, the politico-economic giant that straddles all points of global influence. But that was not to be.

Criticizing China over everything from its militarization of the South China Sea to its use of “economic coercion”, the G7 urged Beijing to push Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. The G7 members said they were “seriously concerned” about events in the East and South China Seas, and “strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion”.

For international groups which don’t usually identify a country for particular criticism, G7 became an exception. It not only censured China for trying all routes to project its influence across the world, it also focused on the Taiwan issue without mincing words.

The members called for a “peaceful solution” to tensions across the Taiwan Strait. The group stressed that they “were prepared to build constructive and stable relations” with Beijing but recognized the importance of “engaging candidly. . . . and expressing our concerns directly to China”. The statement marks the strongest criticism of Beijing by the G7.

China’s foreign ministry responded to the G7 criticism: “The G7 talks about pursing a peaceful, stable, and prosperous world [while] actually doing things that are undermining world peace and regional stability and suppressing other countries’ development.” Beijing was “strongly dissatisfied with this”, the ministry said. Taiwan and Hong Kong were domestic matters and China opposed any external interference, it added, accusing the US of “economic coercion”. The ministry urged the G7 countries to “stop containing and suppressing other countries . . . [and] creating and provoking confusion” and to resume “dialogue and co-operation”. 

To some extent, the criticism of China is sponsored by the group’s eagerness to look united in backing Ukraine against Russia. The group leaders were seeking to project a unified front in the face of global division caused by the war in Ukraine, the US-China dispute, climate change and the expansion of artificial intelligence. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, landed in Hiroshima dramatically, his arrival kept secret till the last moment.

Financial Times quoted a Ukrainian official travelling with Zelenskyy that the main Ukrainian goals at the summit were to gain support for Kyiv’s peace plan, secure greater military aid and co-operation, convince allies to ratchet up sanctions on Russia and discuss further measures to hold Moscow accountable. Downing Street said it would start training Ukrainian pilots “this summer” after the US gave the green light for the transfer of jets from countries including the Netherlands to the administration in Kyiv. Britain has pledged to deliver a “basic program” of jet pilot training for Ukrainians, although they will need further advanced lessons.

The increasingly tough stance on Beijing comes after two years of the US and Japan working with the other G7 countries to strike a harsher tone against China’s military activity around Taiwan and its use of economic pressure. The leaders of Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, US and UK also warned of “heightened uncertainty about the global economic outlook”, pledging to remain vigilant and flexible in their macroeconomic policy as global inflationary pressure continues. On economic policy towards Beijing, the G7 said its approach was “not designed to harm China” nor “to thwart China’s economic progress and development”. Member nations said the group was not interested in decoupling from China and was simply engaging in “de-risking”. But they said they would tackle “challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy” and “foster resilience to economic coercion”.

At the end of the G7, the leaders of the world’s richest democracies made clear to Beijing their stance on divisive issues such as the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan. But the most important part of their message centred on what they called “economic coercion”.

Media reports said it’s a tricky balancing act for the G7. Through trade their economies have become inextricably dependent on China, but competition with Beijing has increased and they disagree on many issues including human rights. Now, they worry they are being held hostage.

In recent years, Beijing has been unafraid to slap trade sanctions on countries that have displeased them. This includes South Korea, when Seoul installed a US missile defence system, and Australia during a recent period of chilly relations.

The European Union was particularly alarmed when China blocked Lithuanian exports after the Baltic country allowed Taiwan to set up a de facto embassy there.

So, it is unsurprising that the G7 condemned what they saw as a “disturbing rise” of the “weaponization of economic vulnerabilities”. This coercion, they said, seeks to “undermine the foreign and domestic policies and positions of G7 members as well as partners around the world”. They called for “de-risking”- a policy that Ms von der Leyen, who is attending the summit, has championed. This is a more moderate version of the US’ idea of “decoupling” from China, where they would talk tougher in diplomacy, diversify trade sources, and protect trade and technology.