Tuesday, May 4th 2021
Flashing: “Defend Rules”
G7 report back to China with a declaration of war
The G7 once represented the most powerful states in the world. But as China expanded its economic and political power, the group of Western leaders disintegrated. Now the G7 are back and want to defend the old international order.
The G7 countries want to work more closely together to curb China’s growing influence in the world. At a meeting in London, the foreign ministers of the western economic powers agreed to become more active, especially in structurally weak regions in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Europe. “We want to deal much more intensively with the extent to which China is using its economic power to expand its geostrategic influence all over the world,” said Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the sidelines of the deliberations. “We want to counter this with something.”
Maas also called for a stronger focus on human rights issues in China policy. “There are business interests everywhere, but questions of human rights and civil liberties need to be given more space when it comes to China,” said the SPD politician. “We all believe that it is far more effective to make issues such as human rights or freedom of the press much stronger against a country like China if we do that together,” added the Foreign Minister. At the same time, they also want to make concrete joint offers for cooperation in future in countries in Africa or Latin America where China wants to expand its geostrategic influence.
The G7 see themselves as a group of states that represent the Western community of values. It includes the USA, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada. The China policy has so far been controversial between the Europeans and the USA. The Americans are taking a much tougher course vis-à-vis Beijing. The actions of the Chinese leadership against the Muslim Uyghur minority are being more severely denounced by the USA, and an investment agreement that has just been concluded between the European Union and China is viewed critically by the US allies. There are also differences with regard to the possible participation of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in the expansion of the fast 5G mobile network.
The foreign ministers had already met on Monday for their three-day meeting, which will deal with all important international issues. The focus, however, is on how Western democracies position themselves in relation to authoritarian states such as China and Russia.
Summit with Biden in June
“We are trying to maintain the order based on international rules in which our countries have invested so much for so many decades,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his arrival in London. If a country – be it China or another state – questions this order, “we will stand up and defend the order”. It is the first face-to-face meeting of the G7 foreign ministers in two years. South Korea, Australia, India and South Africa have also been invited to the talks in London. The British Presidency wants to make the G7 even more of a central forum for the great democracies.
For Great Britain and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the G7 presidency in the year one after Brexit is an opportunity to report back on the world stage as an energetic nation. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has repeatedly expressed sharp criticism of human rights violations in China and Myanmar, for example. Without the EU, the UK would be able to react more flexibly and more quickly, it is said in London.
Raab said: “The UK’s G7 Presidency is an opportunity to bring open, democratic societies together and demonstrate unity when the time is urgent to address common challenges and growing threats.” At the meeting in London, the G7 summit of heads of state and government in Cornwall from June 11th to 13th is to be prepared. It will be the first major summit meeting with the new US President Joe Biden.
The Nord Stream issue
During the tenure of his predecessor Donald Trump, the G7 had lost a lot of its importance. Trump had little interest in the format of the conversation, and even later dropped the final declaration. No regular summit took place under his presidency last year – which, however, also had to do with the corona pandemic. “There was actually essentially no G7 anymore because the United States had long since withdrawn,” said Maas at the time. “It’s different now.”
Now the group is to become the forum through which the competition between democracies and autocracies is to be carried out. The German Foreign Minister also used the meeting for a bilateral conversation with Blinken, which lasted 40 minutes, twice as long as planned. There was no rapprochement in the dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. “The positions we mutually known were exchanged again,” said Maas. “There are no news.”
The almost completed pipeline between Russia and Germany has been one of the main points of contention in German-American relations for years. The change of government in Washington at the beginning of the year did nothing to change that. The USA fear that Europe is too dependent on Russian gas and wants to stop the project with sanctions. Proponents of the pipeline counter the Americans by saying that they are only looking for better sales opportunities for their liquefied gas in Europe. Maas emphasized that the dispute with the US over the pipeline only constituted a “small part” of bilateral relations. “Except for this problem, I (…) don’t see any at the moment that I would even begin to describe as serious.” Germany and the USA are in the process of repairing the relationship that was badly damaged in the Trump era.