G7 leaders gather on China's doorstep to seek unified response to Beijing's threat

The leaders of seven powerful democracies are gathering in Japan, but China and Russia will dominate the agenda.

G7 leaders gather on China's doorstep to seek unified response to Beijing's threat

Hong Kong CNN

On Friday, when the leaders of seven world's largest democracies meet in Japan, the agenda will be dominated by the authoritarian power of China and Russia.

The annual Group of Seven summit (G7), which will convene this year in Hiroshima to be held on September 25, will aim to present a united response to a more assertive China and to the perceived threat that it poses to stability and economic security of the world, already shook by Russia's ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

The G7 summit will focus on Ukraine, including ways to tighten up on Russia and to defuse nuclear tensions. However, the G7 leaders can also use the opportunity to re-calibrate their approach to China. China has not condemned the invasion but instead has bolstered its ties with Moscow.

Yasuhiro Matsuda is a professor of international relations at the University of Tokyo.

It will be difficult to agree on a common strategy for the second-largest economy in the world.

China is a major trading partner for the G7, which includes the United States of America, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom. France, Canada, and Italy are also members.

Sun Yun is the director of the China Program for the Washington-based Stimson Center.

"But to the extent a position can be developed with the greatest common denominator, the G7 presents a great opportunity."

Security in Asia

The US and its allies are at a critical moment as Beijing intensifies diplomatic efforts to repair relations with Europe and drive wedges in the transatlantic partnership.

After a visit to Beijing last month, French President Emmanuel Macron caused a stir in Western capitals when he stated that Europe should not be 'just America’s followers' or get 'caught in crises which are not ours', in response to the possibility of China invading Taiwan.

In an attempt to present a united face on Taiwan, G7 foreign minsters stated in a meeting preparatory for the summit, that the position of the bloc on the democratic self-ruled island had not changed.

Top diplomats have called on China to refrain from coercion, threats, intimidation or force and have reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as an "indispensable component in security and prosperity for the international community."

Matsuda, a professor at the University of Tokyo, stated that Japan, as the only Asian country to host the G7 Summit this year, will place regional security high on the agenda of the summit.

Fumio Kishida, the Japanese prime minister, has publicly warned that "Ukraine may become East Asia tomorrow" due to Beijing's military posture in the region.

Japan, in response to the growing threat from China has doubled its military expenditure and is in discussions to open a NATO office in Asia - the first such office in Asia. This shows a deepening of ties between Western democracies and Asian democracies.

China's 12-day circumnavigation around Japan's islands, led by its most powerful destroyer, was a show of military strength in advance of the G7 summit.

'Economic coercion'

The summit's second important theme will be the economy, and how to counter China’s economic pressure tactics.

Janet Yellen, US Treasury Secretary, called on G7 nations to take 'coordinated actions' against Beijing's use 'economic pressure' at a G7 meeting in Japan last weekend.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, echoed this tough rhetoric before departing for Hiroshima.

Von der Leyen, speaking in Brussels on Monday, said: 'We have seen attempts at economic coercion. For example, China has punished Lithuania for opening a trade office with Taiwan. We've also seen similar practices towards Japan and Australia.'

She called for the de-risking of China's economic relationship, rather than its decoupling.

The summit will aim to diversify the supply chain and reduce heavy dependence on China.

The US is leading the charge for economic "de-risking", as it has restricted Beijing's access advanced semiconductors, and the equipment that makes them. The US is also trying to impose new investment restrictions in China.

There is a question about how far other countries will go.

Japan and the Netherlands joined the US to curb chip investments, but the majority of countries are still skeptical.

Matsuda stated that Beijing's strategy of divide and rule has worked very well.

He said that the G7 was trying to establish some rules and norms among themselves, and then expand them to other countries with similar views in Europe.

China is closely watching

Japan, in an attempt to extend the G7's reach beyond the club for rich democracies has invited leaders of a number of developing nations, including India and Brazil, as well as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Indonesia to the summit.

Yoon Suk-Yeol, the South Korean president, will also attend. After years of disagreements and a history of animosity with Japan, both neighbors are now working to mend their ties as a result of the growing threats of North Korea and increasing concerns about China.

As a sign of an expanding trilateral alliance, US, Japan, and South Korea are meeting on the sidelines to discuss plans of real-time intelligence sharing. This will increase China's fear of being encircled by the US and their allies.

A summit of Quad leaders, including the US, India and Australia, could also take place in Hiroshima, now that US President Joe Biden has cut short his Asia trip due to a debt crisis. The informal security dialog is seen by many as a response to China's aggressive approach in the region.

Experts say that as the G7 summit begins, Chinese officials from Beijing will closely monitor it and not hide their displeasure.

Sun, an expert at the Stimson Center, said that the Chinese would not be happy with this and will criticize 'the cold war mentality' as well as the 'bloc political' tactics of the West.

Beijing has already criticized a G7 statement in the run-up to this summit.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that the event was "full of arrogance and prejudice against China."

Beijing has also reacted angrily to accusations that it was a 'victim' of US economic pressure, rather than the perpetrator.

Experts noted that while China was not invited to Hiroshima it hosted its own summit, with Central Asia countries.

Sun stated that despite the fact that the timing was not coordinated, the move shows the world China's efforts to form a coalition of like-minded nations.

"China still has a great deal of influence."