G7 leaders should not let geopolitics dominate post-pandemic recovery
Published: Jan 19, 2021 07:33 PM

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart Modi for an expanded online Group of Seven(G7) summit in June, leading some analysis in India that the South Asian country can discuss detailed approach toward China with other Western countries.

As the host of the summit this year, Britain is reportedly attempting to establish a so-called D-10 coalition of "democracies" to counter China by inviting South Korea, India and Australia, after London's exit from the European Union.

While G7 countries are pondering the full implications of Johnson's move, such a proposal to expand the G7 into a wider group has met resistance from many European states, concerned it will be perceived as an anti-China alliance.

Some European governments are concerned that anti-China rhetoric will foment a cold war-style standoff with Beijing, which the G7 must avoid after the bloc has fought bitterly with the outgoing Donald Trump administration for four years.

In 2020, the US-hosted G7 summit also invited Modi for an expanded G7 meeting to discuss China, but the meeting never took place due to the wildly spreading coronavirus pandemic in the US.

In addition to the topics brought up by Johnson for this year's G7 summit including trade, health and climate change, the club's other members also want to cooperate on post-pandemic recovery, according to media reports.

As the global economy continues to suffer from severe pandemic-induced disruptions, promoting economic cooperation aimed at post-pandemic recovery should be the top priority of the G7 forum where the leaders of the world's most advanced economies converge.

If the UK-hosted G7 summit is held as scheduled this June, it would be the first in-person meeting of global leaders in two years, after the US-hosted G7 was cancelled and the Saudi-hosted G20 meeting moved online in 2020, and the G7 countries shouldn't let geopolitical schemes overshadow the topic of economic cooperation.

The growing anti-China sentiment in India has blindsided Indian politicians and dragged the country's relations with China to historical lows now. The current UK government, in lockstep with the Trump administration, also caused considerable damage to its ties with China. It would hardly come as a surprise that the two countries will seek common ground when discussing their approach to China.

But from an economic perspective, the economies of UK and India are not highly complementary. If the two stubbornly confront China on economic issues, it will not only postpone their post-pandemic recovery, but also bring long-lasting harm to other G7 economies.

Even if UK and India can reach some consensus on China at the incoming G7 summit, it will only become noise and nothing is to be accomplished, just like those callings for the transfer of the industrial capacity from China to India at the beginning of the epidemic outbreak.

Geopolitical calculations should never affect economic cooperation, and politicians must respect economic principles. Against the backdrop of a stagnant global economy, China's economy has successfully achieved a V-shaped recovery built on efficient virus control. If UK indeed plans to restructure G7, a significant multilateral platform, into D-10, it is bound to meet strong resistance from other G7 members, and the plan will be doomed,

The author is director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University.