G7 communiqué omits mention of China, exposing more rifts
Major EU countries won’t allow G7 to be turned into G1: observer
Published: May 15, 2023 12:38 AM
US Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Jerome Powell (3rd from right) chats with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a photo session of the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors' Meeting at Toki Messe in Niigata on May 12, 2023. Photo: AFP

US Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Jerome Powell (3rd from right) chats with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a photo session of the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors' Meeting at Toki Messe in Niigata on May 12, 2023. Photo: AFP

As a communiqué issued after the three-day Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers and central bank governors meeting that concluded on Saturday made no mention of China at all, experts said that G7 member states are facing more obvious differences, which cast doubts on whether the group will be able to reach a joint statement at the summit on measures to counter China's "economic coercion." 

Western media outlets are already hyping the so-called China's "economic coercion" narrative in the joint statement to be issued. Given the US' declining global strength and rising uncertainty over its financial and economic systems, as well as the increasingly pragmatic and mutually beneficial China-EU cooperation, the experts said, reaching agreement on that will be difficult, adding that the G7 could be more divided than united in the future.

According to a Reuters report on Friday, during the summit to be held in Japan between May 19 and 21, G7 leaders will discuss concerns about so-called China's economic coercion in its dealings abroad as part of their larger joint statement.

Reuters quoted a "US official who familiar with the discussions" as saying that G7 members will issue a statement on how the seven developed economies will work together to counter "economic coercion" from any country, while a separate statement will also be made on "tools" used to counter coercive efforts. 

"The possible act of smearing China in the G7 statement would be driven by the new Cold War mindset. It is an act of misinforming the world, an effort to shirk responsibilities and a demonstration of self-righteous bigotry," Li Yong, deputy chairman of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Sunday.

"Discrediting China in the joint statement would be a sign of irresponsibility and inability of the G7 to address the burning issues that plague the world today, many of which are coming from within the group," Li said, referring to issues such as the US' looming debt default and the technological coercions that distort and disrupt global supply chains.

The mention of China at a series of G7 meetings, under the presidency of Japan, is an attempt to scapegoat China for the problems created by a certain country, Li said.

Zhou Yongsheng, deputy director of the Japanese Studies Center at the China Foreign Affairs University, blasted that G7 nations adopt double standards when accusing China of so-called "economic coercion," as the US and some of its allies have launched rounds of sweeping crackdowns on Chinese tech firms and have imposed export controls.

"If any country should be criticized for economic coercion, it should be the US. The US has been overstretching the concept of national security, abusing export controls and taking discriminatory and unfair measures against foreign companies. This seriously violates the principles of the market economy and fair competition," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing on Friday.

According to media reports, US government sanctions designations soared by 933 percent between 2000 and 2021. More than 9,400 sanctions designations had come into effect in the US by fiscal year 2021. 

Wang urged G7 countries to stop engaging in exclusive "small circles" and refrain from becoming accomplices to economic coercion.

Differences within G7

Early in April, Japanese media began to push so-called "economic coercion" agenda. Japanese media Nikkei reported then that G7 trade ministers agreed to deal with "economic coercion" with measures like import-export restrictions and tariff hikes so as to restrict China's role in global trade.

However, a communiqué issued after the three-day finance ministerial meeting of G7 nations that concluded on Saturday made no mention of China at all.

Clouded by growing concerns about the US' debt ceiling stalemate, which was also not mentioned in the communiqué, G7 finance ministers and central bank governors said they "need to remain vigilant and stay agile and flexible in our macroeconomic policy amid heightened uncertainty about the global economic outlook."

In addition to weighing on the global economy, a US debt default risks damaging the US' leadership within the G7 and beyond. "It would also risk undermining US global economic leadership and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests," US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Thursday, while attending the G7 finance leaders' meeting in Japan, CNN reported.

"While the US and Japan strongly push for plans to counter China, it's hard for G7 countries to reach consensus on specific joint measures such as tariff hikes," Zhou told the Global Times on Sunday. "G7 members such as Germany, France and Italy still attach importance to benefiting their own economies and hope to strengthen economic relations with China to bolster their economies. Meanwhile, their foreign policies are different from the comparatively extreme policies of the US and Japan," he said.

China and the EU are taking active interactions. Both Vice President Han Zheng and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Europe last week.

It is worth noting that the G7 is increasingly becoming an ideological and political camp instead of responsible stakeholders, Li said. He warned that the act of denouncing China will only reduce the credibility of the G7. 

Under the instigation of the US and Japan, the group of several developed countries overly interferes in other countries' internal affairs, for example the South China Sea and Taiwan-related questions, and sows discord on issues related to China, Zhou said.

In the future, Tokyo will keep using the US' Indo-Pacific strategy to maximize its own interests and seek "normalization" of Japan, as the conservative regime is becoming more and more radical to pursue military strength and abandon pacifism. Compared to major EU economies like Germany, France and Italy who want to maintain strategic autonomy, Japan will stand much closer with the US and be more hostile against China, experts said. 

On issues like dumping nuclear-contaminated wastewater from Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, Tokyo is also facing great pressure from the international community, but is seemingly being given a pass by Washington. Adding in the US' troop deployments in Japan, it makes Japan more loyal to US hegemony, and this portends a complicated future for the G7, said Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University.

In the future, G7 members will be more divided than united when they have the US and Japan, and maybe some other Five Eyes Alliance members that unconditionally obey Washington will keep pushing self-damaging and new Cold-War style policies to "tie economy with security." Major EU economies with significant influence that highly value their strategic autonomy will be more reluctant to cooperate and the Europeans will not allow the G7 to eventually turn into the G1 - a group controlled by the only superpower in the world, said Li Haidong.