By Allawi Ssemanda
Over the weekend, we listened to leaders of Group of Seven (G7) countries who gathered in Hiroshima, Japan for this year’s G7 summit which started with promise of trying to address world’s challenges.
If we take a clear analysis of speeches of the leaders; from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan—plus the European Union, one can conclude that the summit veered off the original course – addressing global challenges and metamorphosized into a sort of anti-China grouping.
From press conferences to official communiqué, as the Atlantic Council analysis concluded; “make no mistake, it is all about China,” the U.S and “Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made the issue of combating China’s economic coercion a priority for Japan’s G7.”
While President Joe Biden told press that he supports the idea of having an “open hotline” with China, his rhetoric points at a president interested in maligning China with accusations of “China’s continued military expansion” and the so-called Beijing’s “economic coercion.” However, simple facts check points at the U.S being the leader when it comes to economic coercion especially influencing allies to follow Washington’s unilateral decisions.
While Biden claimed that Washington will not “decouple from China,” he told the same press that “with all the talk about China’s building its military, I’ve made it clear …I’m not prepared to trade certain items with China,” claiming that trading freely with China means China “using them to build nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and I’m not going to do it.” Biden further boasted that allies have all agreed to restrict selling of certain items to Chinese firms stressing that “we’ve now got commitment from all of our allies they’re not going to either provide that kind of material that allows them to do that.”
While Biden claimed that the U.S is not seeking to “decouple from China,” if critically analysed, his comments reflect China’s accusation that Washington has been encouraging allies and companies to decouple from Chinese chain supply. Indeed, on 7th October 2022, the U.S took unprecedented steps announcing export bans to cut China off from certain semiconductor chips and chip-making equipment. Hence, the claim that the U.S does not seek to “decouple from China” is double standard considering that the U.S has been encouraging her companies to do exactly this. However, the U.S must accept fair competition and come to reality that attempts to isolate China will not help Washington and threaten global economy. As Elon Musk argued, it is not realistic to completely decouple from China and such efforts will definitely boomerang. For example, since 2013, China has been the engine of global economy with more than 38% compared to all G7 countries contribution of just 25.7%!
On G7 accusing China of increasingly “building its military” capacity, one can argue that compared to the U.S 2022/2023 defence budget of about $761 billion which is almost times four of China’s ($230 billion), this claim is baseless and misleading. It is also important to observe that all the G7 countries’ defence budgets have been steadily increasing over the past several years. Therefore, pointing at China as the only country whose military budget continue to rise is a keen to misinformation.
Telling journalists that “now, we’re also united in our approach to the People’s Republic of China, and the joint statement released yesterday outlines the shared principles we’ve all agreed at the G7 and beyond in dealing with China,” Biden argued that as a result of alleged China’s continued military building, “we’ve ended up where you have Japan stepping up in a way that’s of real consequence, in terms of your defense budget, number one, and a beginning of a rapprochement with South Korea.” If analysed, Japan’s decision to abandon pacifism which Tokyo has maintained for decades as per its post-war constitution – adopted in 1947 with a clause commonly referred to as Article 9 in which first paragraph renounces war, and the second paragraph promises to never maintain military forces, today, Japan’s decision to consider own military as well as growing its defence budget can be traced from US’ influence and courting Tokyo to join Washington’s anti-Beijing club with their so-called countering China agenda which is informed by America’s libido dominandi, a Latin phrase for lust to dominate others. We can argue that using China card, the U.S has created China scare and forced countries including Japan into group formation with the latest being the so-called QUAD which analysts argue is meant to counter what US calls China’s influence in Indo-Pacific.
Indeed, addressing press alongside G7 summit in Hiroshima, president Biden was categorical explaining that he convinced India, Australia and Japan to join the U.S and form Quad. “I bet you — I would — maybe some of you thought it, but I doubt many people in this audience or any other audience would have said that two years after being elected, I’d be able to convince India, Australia, Japan, and the United States to form an organization called the Quad to maintain stability in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea,” boasted president Biden.
The formation of Quad left a number of countries in the region entering defence competition with Japan abandoning its pacifism policy, South Korea announcing increased military spending and the U.S promising nuclear submarines to Australia on the other hand claiming Washington is committed to ensuring nuclear proliferation in the region.
Also, the G7 summit addressed their so-called “shared commitment to the G7 Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII)” and promised $600 billion to among others support infrastructure development in both South and Global north. Analysts argue PGII is meant to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has so far been embraced by over 151 countries and at least 32 international organizations creating tens of thousands of employment opportunities and growing a number of countries GDP projections, G7’s PGII largely remains on paper. Despite G7 promises of speeding up their push for new supply chains ostensibly to leverage the PGII as an alternative to BRI, it is very unlikely this will be realised. Indeed, since its announcement two years ago, in Africa, it is very difficult to trace how many countries have benefited from it. The U.S which is arguably a de facto leader of G7 and pushing PGII itself has serious infrastructure deficits and the Biden administration has more than twice failed to convince congress to fund it. It therefore remains strange to imagine congress will approve money to address infrastructure deficits abroad yet it failed to approval similar spending at home.
In conclusion, the G7 summit which started with promise of trying to address global challenges ended up as a small group of rich countries discussing how to counter China and ignored real issues affecting the world especially developing countries. On global peace, in efforts to their so-called countering China, the group instigated Japan to abandon its pacifism policy as Tokyo embarks on building and growing its military. Also, the choice of Hiroshima which suffered the first nuclear attacks at a time when Russia-Ukraine crisis is raging makes one wonder what message G7 leaders were sending. It is not a surprise there was no talk of diplomacy as a possible way of addressing the crisis but many choose to announce military support to Kiev.
Dr. Allawi Ssemanda is a Senior Research Fellow at the Development Watch Centre.