The G7 rejects China’s “economic coercion”

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G7 leaders made plain to Beijing their positions on problems including the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan at this week’s conference. Image source: REUTERS

The G7 leaders delivered a clear statement to Russia, but they also had China on their thoughts as a potential threat.

China, with its growing authoritarianism both locally and internationally, poses the greatest threat to international peace and prosperity, according to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Notably, the leaders of the richest democracies in the world have reiterated their positions in two remarks on hot-button issues involving the Indo-Pacific and Taiwan.

However, what they called “economic coercion” was the main focus of their message.

As the G7 negotiates its relationship with China, they are faced with a difficult conundrum.

Trade has linked their economies to China, but when rivalry grows and opinions on different topics, including human rights, diverge, things become more complicated.

The G7 nations are worried that Beijing could use pressure against them.

China has recently been unafraid to impose trade penalties on nations that have carried out conduct it disapproves of.

Examples include Australia, which went through a period of tense ties that resulted in trade restrictions, and South Korea, which suffered sanctions after it installed a US missile defense system.

This circumstance emphasizes the fine line the G7 nations must walk in order to safeguard their interests while preserving a positive relationship with China.

China’s determination to obstruct Lithuanian exports in retaliation for Lithuania’s decision to host a de facto embassy for Taiwan particularly worried the European Union.

It is therefore not surprise that the G7 strongly condemned what they perceived to be a worrying increase in the “weaponization of economic vulnerabilities.”

According to the G7’s declaration, this sort of coercion tries to harm both the internal and foreign policies and positions of G7 members as well as its international allies.

China wants to exert pressure and influence on other nations through the use of economic power, which could potentially undermine their independence and ability to make decisions.

The G7’s uniform position demonstrates their widespread opposition to China’s use of such techniques.

The G7 leaders have supported a strategy of “de-risking,” which is in line with the opinions of Ms. von der Leyen, who is present at the meeting. This strategy is a more reasonable substitute for the US idea of “decoupling” from China.

De-risking means taking a more assertive diplomatic stance, diversifying trade sources, and safeguarding trade and technology rather than fully breaking links.

The G7 has launched a “coordination platform” to work with emerging economies and against coercion.

Although the exact mechanics of this platform have not been made clear, it is expected that the member nations will aid one another by boosting trade or providing cash to get through any trade restrictions put in place by China.

This collaborative strategy aims to increase adaptability and lessen the effects.

Indeed, the G7 has outlined several key measures to address the challenges posed by China.

Strengthening supply chains for critical goods like minerals and semiconductors is a priority, aiming to reduce dependency and enhance resilience.

Additionally, the G7 intends to fortify digital infrastructure to safeguard against hacking and technology theft, a concern particularly relevant to military and intelligence applications.

However, one of the most significant tools the G7 plans to employ is multilateral export controls.

By working together, member nations seek to prevent their advanced technologies from falling into the hands of “malicious actors.

” This collaborative approach aims to establish stricter regulations and oversight to ensure that sensitive technologies are not misused or obtained by unauthorized entities.

Multilateral export controls provide a means to safeguard national security interests and protect critical technological capabilities.

In fact, the United States has put restrictions on chip exports and technology transfers to China, and it has received backing for these initiatives from nations like Japan and the Netherlands.

Despite Beijing’s protests, the G7 has indicated its resolve to continue and step up such measures.

The G7 has also made clear that it is committed to putting a stop to technology transfers that it deems to be “inappropriate,” particularly those that come up as a result of research efforts.

Many nations, including the United States, have increased their vigilance in response to worries about industrial espionage and charges that people have stolen technology secrets for China, leading to arrests and legal actions.

The G7’s intention to deal with these concerns indicates a shared desire to defend technological innovation, stop intellectual property theft, and preserve interests in national security.

The G7 leaders were careful not to advocate for a complete severance of ties with China.

They employed language on economic coercion without explicitly naming China, possibly in an attempt to maintain diplomatic sensitivity.

When they did directly address China, the G7 leaders adopted a nuanced approach.

While standing their ground on key issues, they also sought to assuage Beijing’s concerns by stating that their policies were not intended to harm China or impede its economic progress and development.

They emphasized that their actions were not driven by a desire for decoupling or isolationism.

This balanced approach reflects the G7’s efforts to navigate the complexities of their relationship with China, recognizing the importance of engaging with the country while addressing legitimate concerns and ensuring a level playing field in economic and security matters.

Indeed, the G7 leaders exerted pressure on China by emphasizing the importance of a “growing China that plays by international rules” for the benefit of the global community.

This statement implies that China’s adherence to international norms and regulations is not only in its own interest but also in the interest of the wider world.

Furthermore, the G7 expressed their commitment to maintaining open and direct communication with China, advocating for “candid” engagement.

Despite the tense atmosphere and differences in views, this signals their willingness to continue dialogue and express their concerns directly to Chinese counterparts.

The G7 recognizes the importance of ongoing engagement as a means to address issues, find common ground, and foster cooperation where possible.

By combining pressure with an openness to dialogue, the G7 aims to encourage constructive behavior from China, promote adherence to international norms, and establish a platform for resolving disputes and fostering cooperation.

The response of Chinese leaders and diplomats to the G7’s message remains to be seen, as it is typically conducted behind closed doors.

However, in the past, Chinese state media has criticized the West for what it perceives as a dual approach: criticizing China while simultaneously benefiting from economic partnerships.

It is worth noting that public responses from Beijing often include strong and assertive rhetoric. This approach allows the Chinese government to demonstrate its stance and signal its determination to protect its interests.

The public response from Beijing, characterized by angry rhetoric, may serve as a means to assert China’s position and push back against perceived criticism.

However, the true nature of China’s response and its willingness to engage in constructive dialogue will become clearer through private diplomatic channels and ongoing interactions between China and the G7 nations.

China conducted a parallel conference with Central Asian nations as the G7 summit got underway. Image source: REUTERS

In the days before the conference, China’s state media and embassies published articles accusing the US of its own economic coercion and hypocrisy, showing that it had plainly anticipated the G7’s words.

They complained to the summit’s organizer Japan on Saturday night, accusing the G7 of “smearing and attacking” China.

Additionally, they encouraged the other G7 nations to refrain from “joining in economic coercion” with the US and to “stop banding together to form exclusive blocs” and “containing and bludgeoning other countries.”

Indeed, China has been proactive in building alliances with other countries, as demonstrated by its recent parallel meeting with Central Asian countries.

This highlights China’s efforts to expand its influence and establish alternative partnerships.

While the effectiveness of the G7’s plan remains uncertain, it is likely to be welcomed by those who have been advocating for a clear and coordinated strategy to address China’s encroachments.

The statement issued by the G7 was praised by Indo-Pacific and China expert Andrew Small, who noted its consensus-like nature and its representation of a “centre-ground” view within the G7.

This suggests that the G7 countries have managed to find common ground and express a collective stance on addressing China’s actions.

The G7’s unified approach could potentially contribute to a more coordinated and cohesive international response to China’s challenges, as well as provide support for countries dealing with China’s assertiveness in various domains.

According to Dr. Small, a senior transatlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund think tank, “there are still significant debates playing out around what ‘de-risking’ actually means, how far some of the sensitive technology export restrictions should go, and what sort of collective measures need to be taken against economic coercion.”

But there is now a distinct and explicit framework for how the advanced industrial economies need to rebalance their economic relations with China.

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