When the leaders of the G7 group of major developed economies meet in the Bavarian Alps on Sunday, they will have very different views on how difficult it is to confront China as the world appears to be tipping into a major economic crisis.
Amid fears of recessions and impending energy and food supply crises, it is a big headache that China now appears to be a direct ideological enemy rather than a potential partner who can help bring the economy back. world from the edge of the abyss.
Things were different in the aftermath of the global debt crisis of 2007-2008. At the time, China was an active and often very cooperative global player in the G20 format, playing the role of major diplomatic initiatives centered on massive stimulus measures and the avoidance of trade wars. Many even predicted a new era in which global economic policy would be driven by the interaction of a G2 of Washington and Beijing.
It seems like forever now, as President Xi Jinping has embarked on a serious authoritarian swerve away from the West, stepping up repression at home and allying himself closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the war in Ukraine. Economically, China is now openly pulling in a different direction from the G7. He is throwing a lifeline to sanctions-hit Russia, waging a trade war with EU member country Lithuania in a dispute over Taiwan and warding off international criticism of a zero-COVID strategy that is breaking the shackles of global supply.
Far from being the supporters of any G2, it is the Americans who will arrive at the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria with the most difficult playbook on how to approach China. Chief among their list of ambitions is that major democracies should work together on grand projects that can replace Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative – a vast network of roads, railways and ports through which China wields political and commercial influence by connecting its factories to the West.
Speaking ahead of the summit, a senior US administration official said the leaders aimed “to advance a vision of the world based on freedom and openness, not coercion, not aggression, and not on spheres of influence”. need to intensify cooperation on “economic, cyberspace and quantum issues” and “in particular, the challenges posed by China”.
Noting that last year’s G7 was the first time the group had addressed China’s “unfair” and “coercive” economic practices, the official said: “We expect it to be, if at all, a bigger topic of conversation this time around, acknowledging how these practices have become even more aggressive.
Senior US officials are clear that the push against China means offering an alternative to Belt and Road. US President Joe Biden is likely to rebrand the US-led counterattack – the Build Back Better World program, launched at last year’s G7 – giving it a more lively name and focusing on certain projects concrete actions in target areas such as Latin America, Africa and Asia.
“He will launch a partnership for global infrastructure, physical health and digital infrastructure that we believe can provide an alternative to what the Chinese are offering – to the tune of tens and ultimately hundreds of billions of dollars when you add what our G7 partners are going to do as well,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week. “We intend this to be one of the foreign policy hallmarks of the Biden administration for the remainder of his term.”
Caution in Europe
While the Americans are coming out strong, the Europeans are likely to be much more cautious about the merits of annoying China as the world heads into an economic storm.
The EU has been relatively quiet about its own Global Gateway initiative unveiled last year, which has also been touted as an alternative to the Belt and Road. While European politicians talk of a big game about establishing “strategic autonomy” and breaking dependence on China, they often back down as soon as there is a suggestion of a threat of retaliation against large European industrial investments in China – such as the German car industry.
“Any concerted transatlantic effort on China will continue to face the same hurdles as before, including significant European economic interests in China and a European drive to also reduce its own dependence on the United States,” he said. Pepijn Bergsen, researcher. on Europe at Chatham House, a think tank.
If anything could ultimately bolster European resolve on China, Bergsen said it was Xi’s close alliance with Russia that had become a key strategic priority for Europeans in light of the invasion of Ukraine. .
“The United States continues to be more focused on China than the Europeans, who are primarily interested in China at the moment as part of its support for Russia. This has led to new doubts about China in parts of Europe, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Europe, which should at least ensure that the EU and the United States do not drift further apart on the China issue,” he said. -he declares.
The United States is also likely to find Japan increasingly willing to take a tougher line on China as Beijing steps up military threats against Taiwan. “In the East China Sea, where Japan is located, unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in violation of international law continue. Japan takes a firm stand against such attempts,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio said. Kishida at a recent security conference. forum.
All eyes on NATO
For China, the main concerns over statements from Western countries in the coming days focus on what’s brewing at the NATO summit next week, rather than tough talks at the G7.
For the very first time, NATO will consider China as a challenge in its next 10-year master plan, the Strategic Concept, which will be adopted next week. According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the 30 leaders of the military bloc “will address China and the implications for our security” at the Madrid summit. “I expect allies to say that China poses challenges to our values, our interests or our security. And that, of course, also has an impact on how NATO should react in a more competitive world,” Stoltenberg told POLITICO. the week.
In a last-minute appeal to avoid this kind of designation, Wang Lutong, head of European affairs at China’s foreign ministry, wrote that China “is not an adversary of NATO and should not be considered as such. China poses no challenge, and its rise aims to provide a better life for the Chinese people and has brought economic opportunities to the world , including members of NATO”.
China’s close alliance with Russia during the war in Ukraine, however, already raises big questions about how wealthy Western countries should handle the larger format of the G20, in which high-income countries engage with a broader group representing the broader global economy, including China, Russia, Mexico and Indonesia. Russia’s presence raised the possibility that some Western nations might boycott to avoid being in the same room with Putin.
But a senior EU official said the growing gap between G7 countries and developing economies made the G20 all the more important.
“The G20 takes on all the more relevance as a bridge to voters who may not have an identical worldview,” the senior official said. “The worst thing we can do is break that format. … Diplomacy isn’t just about having nice conversations with your like-minded friends.”
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