- by Casey Davidson
- The Guardian
- Issue #1966
The US-led Group of 7 (G7) Summit took place last weekend in Cornwall, England, where an official report was issued openly undermining China’s policies and practices, and announcing the launch of a global infrastructure plan to challenge China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was invited as a guest by British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, as one of three other additional guest leaders from countries: India, South Korea and South Africa. Chinese diplomats have confidently responded to criticisms of China arising out of the G7, rejecting US pseudo-multilateralism, which only serves a small clique, rather than genuine cooperation and consultation with the international community.
Originally formed in 1973 as the G5, the United States, United Kingdom, West Germany, France and Japan met as the world’s major industrialised countries, and was joined by Italy, Canada and European Economic Community representatives – which would later become the EU – by the end of the 1970s. While it has masqueraded as a strategic meeting for world leaders to discuss macroeconomic issues, the real agenda of the summits has been to reassert US hegemony through coercive partnerships. If the G7 were to discuss macroeconomic issues in earnest, then shouldn’t China – now as the first or second-largest economy in the world depending on the metric used – be invited? By its very exclusion, the agenda is clear. As Australian renowned journalist John Pilger tweeted, “What they dared not admit at the G7 – in the 1970s, two-thirds of the world economy was controlled by the West. Today, the reverse is true: two-thirds of the world economy belongs to China and the rest of the world. What’s the point of the G7?”
The recently released Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué has been described by the Global Times as “one of the most systemic condemnations against and interference in China by major Western powers.” The report gloats about a commitment to an open, rules-based world order, and shared values as democratic societies which protect human rights and respect the rule of law, but intentionally refers to China in opposition to this – calling on the nation to respect fundamental freedoms, and in particular in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. It also centres on criticism of nations which either refuse to fold to wholeheartedly capitulate to US dominance, such as Russia, Belarus, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, North Korea, Myanmar, Iran, and Iraq.
At the forefront in the containment of China was US President Joe Biden’s announcement of the Build Back Better World Initiative (B3W), a strategic partnership to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a major infrastructure project China is implementing with partner countries across the globe. The B3W also claims to develop infrastructure in developing countries, focusing on mobilising capital in climate, health and health security, digital technologies and gender equity and equality. It is questionable whether this $40 trillion investment will be able to compete with the BRI, given there is no clear pathway as to how it will be funded at this stage. Additionally, developing countries may be wary of what political strings may be attached considering their historical and current dealings with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with their structural adjustment policies which open them up to exploitation and domination by US capital. Contrastingly, the BRI has signed up approximately 140 countries worldwide, with massive infrastructure projects already bringing economic growth and prosperity to those involved.
It is also doubtful that this G7 partnership is completely united in its intentions. Germany and Italy, both leading European powers and G7 members, are two of these 140 countries who have signed up to BRI agreements, and have projects in partnership with China. German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that “for countries in need of development, only concrete projects count.” An investment deal has recently been made between China and the EU to make it easier to invest in each others’ economies. It seems unlikely that Germany, Italy or the wider EU would completely step in line with the US’s strategic plan, given the trajectory of China and US power relations.
Meanwhile, this meeting of the major imperialist powers spent no time discussing the continued colonisation of Palestine, war crimes in Afghanistan, indigenous or black rights, the unethical incarceration of refugees, domestic violence or any other issues in the imperial core. As Australia’s reputation continues to dwindle due to participation in and ignorance of these serious issues, some of the Australian public have expressed anxiety over Morrison’s conduct on a world stage. An audience member on ABC’s Q&A panel show asked if a discussion about China at the G7 would be more of a strategy to distract focus away from issues of genuine national interest, such as Australia’s shameful policies on climate change. Fortunately for Morrison, the G7 was no such meeting to condemn those supporting US hegemony.
Chinese diplomats have responded to questions about the G7 in general and the “rules-based order” rhetoric. China’s new Ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang asserted, “We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries. The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.”
Chinese Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin remarked in response to a question about the G7 keeping China in check, “Those fanning confrontation are definitely on an ill-advised path. Peace, development and win-win cooperation is the trend of our times and all countries’ shared aspiration. Ganging up, pursuing bloc politics and forming small cliques are unpopular and doomed to fail. We hope relevant countries will discard ideological bias, look at China in an objective and rational light, and take more concrete actions to promote global anti-COVID cooperation, boost world economic recovery and help accelerate developing countries’ growth.”
It is clear that it is not in Australia’s national interest to follow along in disregard to statements like these, by declaring adherence to the G7’s 2021 Open Societies Statement, which was also devised as a clear indication of showing where Australia’s and other nations’ allegiance lies. This once again puts Australia in an uncomfortable position with regards to upcoming summits and ongoing trade disputes.
During the G7, Japan and Italy struck deals with Australia to promote technologies which will meet emission targets sooner, however Morrison has emphasised that no new commitments have been made to tackle climate change, and that Australia does not support “false deadlines for phasing out specific energy sources.” “Our goal is to get there as soon as possible, preferably by 2050, through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support, especially in our regions,” he said.
Rumours about Morrison being denied one-on-one consultation with Biden at the G7 centred around Australia’s poor climate change targets. Labor Senator Penny Wong suggested it was due to Morrison’s refusal to embrace net zero emissions by 2050 and that it has left Australia isolated. Perhaps this carries some validity, however, the rhetoric emanates Australia’s desperation to be approved of and recognised by the US, rather than to be genuinely engaged in rational climate change action.
While climate protesters stormed the beaches of Cornwall in response to the G7 Summit, the actual purpose of maintaining US hegemony and containing China was overshadowed. The world is witnessing a geopolitical shift away from the US-lead imperial order, to one in which the US influence has waned, and in its wake, a multi-polar world is rising, creating conditions for improved livelihoods the world over.