Can the G7 take a united stance on China?

Experts say they are skeptical about the group's ability to come up with a coordinated response to China's expanding economic power and military might

Can the G7 take a united stance on China? (Photo: DW)
Can the G7 take a united stance on China? (Photo: DW)


Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) — a club of some of the world's major industrialized nations — are gathering in the Japanese city of Hiroshima from Friday for their annual summit.

The West's relationship with China amid Beijing's expanding economic and political clout, Russia's war in Ukraine, and the troubled state of the global economy are set to top the agenda of their discussions.

The G7 — which includes the US, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Canada — has been grappling with the question of how to deal with China amid Beijing's growing global economic influence and military might in recent years.

At the summit, the G7 leaders are expected to touch on concerns about what they see as Beijing's use of "economic coercion" around the world.

They say they are not "decoupling" their economies from China but rather "de-risking," to insulate them from potential blackmail, by diversifying supply chains and markets.

The US has called for G7 nations to take stronger positions on Beijing.

Washington has already blocked China's access to the most advanced semiconductors and the equipment to make them. It has also pressed Japan and the Netherlands to follow suit.

But European countries like Germany and France stress that the G7 is not an "anti-China alliance." They have also underlined that de-risking their economies does not mean cutting off ties with the world's second-biggest economy.

Highlighting the importance of rules-based order

The G7 leaders will also discuss China's military activities in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, and their impact on stability in the region.

But it will be tough for them to agree on any specific measures to counter Beijing's growing power in the Indo-Pacific, said Robert Ward, Director of Geo-economics and Strategy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

"I suspect G7 countries won't want to go head-on towards China because they could only fight on so many fronts, and the Ukraine issue will be pretty major," he told DW.

Wenti Sung, a China expert at the Australian National University (ANU), said the G7 joint statement will likely include language highlighting their concern for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and reiterating the importance of a rules-based global order.

"I don't expect a robust security dimension to be featured in the G7 joint statement," he noted. "But I do expect a continuation of values-based language expressing support for Taiwan and the stability of the Taiwan Strait as a core element of the global commerce and maritime freedom of navigation."

China has always slammed statements by foreign governments on Taiwan as an interference in its domestic affairs.

Ward said Japan, however, is keen to present the island as an international issue that "everyone needs to be interested in."

"[Japan thinks] everyone needs to participate in the preservation of the stability [across the Taiwan Strait]," he added.

How to enlist nations outside the group

Japan has also invited leaders from several non-G7 economies, including Australia, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Brazil and the African Union, to this year's gathering.

Some of these countries have so far resisted Western calls for sanctions on Russia, and don't want to be drawn into broader geopolitical conflicts. One of the G7 goals in Hiroshima, said Ward, is to convince them to join forces with the democratic world in opposition to Russia and China.

But Sana Hashmi, a postdoctoral fellow at the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation in Taipei, said there's "no coordination" between the G7 and other democratic nations on China policy.

"They want to focus on threats from China, and the agenda between the sub-groups and the G7 are similar, yet there is no coordination," she pointed out.

Nevertheless, Ward said, the US push for allies to take on more responsibilities in preserving regional stability could prompt a collective response against China. "[The US] has recognized that it needs help from allies, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region."

G7 to talk on ways to stop nuclear proliferation

This year's G7 summit is taking place in Hiroshima, one of the two Japanese cities bombed with nuclear weapons by the US in the last days of World War II.

The choice of venue underscores Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's determination to put nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at the top of the agenda.

A path to nuclear disarmament has appeared more difficult amid Moscow's recent nuclear weapon threats in Ukraine, China's growing nuclear stockpile and North Korea's attempts to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities.

Russia has also suspended its involvement in the New Start nuclear arms treaty with the US, a deal limiting their strategic stockpiles.

Tokyo has adopted a firm anti-nuclear stance. But Japan, which is protected by the US nuclear umbrella, has faced criticism that its nuclear disarmament pledge is an empty promise.

Ward, from IISS, said that Kishida will push for G7 to commit to creating conditions for further disarmament. But he doubts the efforts will generate any significant outcome at the summit.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines