Hiroshima, Japan – The Group of Seven has called for “constructive” ties with China and insisted it does not seek to block the country’s development, even while taking aim at Beijing’s rights record and territorial claims.
In their communique released on Saturday, the G7 leaders struck a balance between seeking cooperation in areas like climate change and pushing back against Beijing’s increasingly assertive posture, which has upended decades-old assumptions about the global balance of power.
The leaders of the club of wealthy democracies said they did not wish to decouple from China but recognised that economic resilience required “de-risking and diversifying”.
“Our policy approaches are not designed to harm China nor do we seek to thwart China’s economic progress and development,” the G7 leaders said.
“A growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest.”
But the G7 — made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — said it would respond to challenges posed by China’s “non-market policies and practices”, counter “malign practices”, and “foster resilience to economic coercion”.
The G7 also expressed concerns about Beijing’s claims in the East and South China Seas, as well as its crackdowns on freedoms in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.
The leaders of the G7 also called on China to press Russia to end its war in Ukraine and for the peaceful resolution of tensions over Taiwan, which Beijing has threatened to reunify with the Chinese mainland by force if necessary.
Yuichi Hosoya, a professor of international politics at Keio University in Tokyo, described the statement as taking a “very balanced approached.”
“This de-risking, and not decoupling, approach is the EU’s preferred approach, and it meant that they did not take the American ‘decoupling’ policy towards China,” Hosoya told Al Jazeera.
“Even though they used some critical words towards some of China’s positions and policies, I feel they created a conclusion that can be accepted by most of the leading powers in this conference.”
China’s foreign ministry late on Saturday rejected the statement as an example of interference in its internal affairs and said it had complained to Japan, the G7 host.
Michele Geraci, a finance professor at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China who served as a senior official in Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development, said the G7 had “lost touch with the reality” and should worry more about the future of its own economies and societies.
“I would say that China’s military is becoming more aggressive once they build 750 military bases in the Mediterranean or Caribbean Sea,” Geraci told Al Jazeera, referring to the US military’s global footprint.
“In the meantime, G7 leaders are simply looking for an external enemy to blame and hide our own problems.”
Along with Russia’s war in Ukraine, China’s growing power and influence have been a major focus of attention at the three-day summit in Hiroshima, Japan, that ends on Sunday.
The gathering comes amid growing calls among Western officials for coordinated action to counter Beijing, particularly in the US, where President Joe Biden has made competition with Beijing a central pillar of his foreign policy.
Earlier this year, Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for the formation of an “economic NATO” to respond to economic coercion by countries such as China.
On Tuesday, US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said the G7 would develop tools “to deter and defend against China’s economic intimidation and retaliation”.
Japan and European members, however, have been seen as more cautious than the US to antagonise Beijing due to their heavy dependence on Chinese trade, raising questions about how far such measures might go.
In their communique, the G7 leaders said they would launch a “Coordination Platform on Economic Coercion” to respond to economic coercion.
The initiative would increase the G7’s “collective assessment, preparedness, deterrence and response to economic coercion” and “further promote cooperation with partners beyond the G7”, the statement said, without elaborating further.