Rich-man’s club risks Cold War obsolescence

By Liu Zongyi Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-14 20:28:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The G7 summit concluded in Germany last week. Chinese scholars and media barely showed any interest to this outdated informal institution, except for a Declaration on Maritime Security issued by G7 foreign ministers. The declaration expressed their concerns on "unilateral actions" in the South China Sea, with China as the obvious target.

Judging from the agenda and outcomes of this year's G7 summit, it has run counter to the global trend of peace, development and cooperation and become mere of a geopolitical tool.

Since the very beginning of the establishment of the G7, it has been a rich-man's club that consists of Western major powers and aims to maintain the collective hegemony of the US-led West. It used to focus on the world's economic issues, and then extended to political and security affairs. After the Cold War, Russia was included in this grouping, which almost became the core of global governance and looked as though it might replace the UN Security Council.

However, the other G7 members never treated Russia as an equal partner. Russia was only entitled to discuss politics and security but not financial and economic issues.

As the world entered the 21st century, new economies started to emerge and the world's political and economic center has gradually shifted to the Asia-Pacific. The 2008 global financial crisis forced G7 members into a stalemate, and these nations started to realize that they could only get rid of the crisis with the help of emerging economies. Therefore, the US proposed defining the G20 as the main platform to discuss international economic problems. Within the G20, although the G7, as a sub group, intends to dominate the agenda-setting, the G7 cannot play its role without cooperation from new economies whose voices can be heard more nowadays.

Yet countries such as the US and Japan can hardly accept the rising international status of emerging economies and are reluctant to give up their hegemony. When the financial crisis eased slightly, Western media vigorously propagated the "revival" of the G7. But the economic performance of G7 members meant the summit was a gathering of debtors.

To some extent, the role of the G7 in global economic governance is negative. The IMF and the World Bank are under the control of G7 members. This is one of the reasons for the low implementation capacity of the G20.

In the field of politics and security, Western powers relentlessly promoted the role of the G7. But the G7 has proved to be unable to maintain regional stability, and has led to chaos in the Middle East instead. After the Ukrainian crisis, the West excluded Russia from the original G8, making the current G7 grouping on the way to becoming a Cold War relic.

Russia and China are main targets of the discussion at this G7 summit. They decided to continue to impose pressure on Russia amid the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. As for China, they focused on issues around the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the East and South China Sea. But it is worth noting that European members have shown a different stance from the US and Japan on both matters.

Whether the G7 will become a geopolitical tool or a Cold War relic largely depends on European countries. Unlike the US, Europe shares a closer geopolitical and economic links with Russia. If the G7 becomes a platform for the confrontation between the West and Russia, it will undoubtedly be a disaster for Europe. Seeking a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis with Russia fits European interests. As for the East and South China Sea disputes thousands of kilometers away from the European continent, these countries needn't necessarily get involved.

During the G7 summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to pull European countries to Japan's anti-China bandwagon. China should continue to stay wary of the Japanese government.

The author is a research fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies and a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus