The curtains have closed on the 49th G7 summit held in Hiroshima, Japan. The summit that commanded the global spotlight over the weekend, hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, has ruffled Russian and Chinese feathers. As the global community grapples with challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the summit was hailed as a success, as it brought together different nations and sent a clear message to the troublemakers seeking to disrupt the international order.
A joint statement issued at the summit reaffirmed the consensus that the group strongly opposes unilateral actions that seek to change the “status quo” by force or coercion — in an apparent reference to China’s military expansion in the Pacific.
Kishida put it in simple terms: G7 leaders have reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and called for a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues.
“There is clear understanding among most of our allies that, in fact, if China were to act unilaterally, there would be a response,” US President Joe Biden said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said that global partners should unite to ensure cross-strait peace.
The G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communique, released on Saturday, highlights the group’s concerns over China’s behavior in the Indo-Pacific region, and that cross-strait security is essential to global prosperity and peace. Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s remark that “If Taiwan has a problem, then Japan also has a problem” has become “If Taiwan has a problem, then the global community also has a problem.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could not have put it better when he said: “China poses the biggest challenge of our age to global security and prosperity.”
“We are not decoupling or turning inwards,” Biden added. “At the same time, we recognize that economic resilience requires de-risking and diversifying.”
The communique said that nations should take individual or united actions against China to counter its non-market economic practices set to undermine the global economy, including cracking down on illegal skills transfers and data leaks.
Aside from the “united front” tactics to push back against Beijing’s economic coercion, the leaders have raised concerns over stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and have called out China on its reported human rights violations and abuses, including in Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as the continued erosion of Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and autonomy. The G7 members aimed to amplify their consensus on vital issues and reaffirm their toughening stance against China.
To expand the G7’s sway and to bring more leaders into the fold in opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Beijing’s growing military assertiveness, the summit also invited eight non-members of the “Global South” and seven international organizations, including India, chair of the G20 New Delhi Summit this year and a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement; Azali Assoumani, president of the Union of Comoros and chairperson of the African Union, which represents 55 African nations; and the Cook Islands, which represents the 18 island nations of the Pacific Islands Forum.
In regards to issues most related to developing countries, the G7 summit discussed transboundary issues concerning climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, health, food and energy security, as well as the rule of law, as member nations sought to build a stronger partnership with non-member countries.
Furthermore, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a scene-stealing arrival at the G7 summit. The wartime leader who has sought global support originally planned to attend via videoconference, but decided to join the leaders at Hiroshima in person at the last moment. This was not unlike Kishida’s surprise visit to Kyiv after visiting India in March, making him the first Japanese prime minister in the nation’s post-World War II history to visit a country at war without prior announcement.
Zelenskiy continued his appeals for more powerful weapons and tougher sanctions against Moscow, with the US promising to undertake joint efforts with its partners to train Ukrainian pilots in the use of fourth-generation F-16 jets. Zelenskiy also used the occasion to woo powerful unaligned nations, such as India, that have not condemned Russia’s invasion. Leveraging the powerful symbolism of Hiroshima, he used the emotional history of the city to drive home his message that war must be eliminated from history.
The G7 summit dates back to 1975, when six leading industrial economies, namely France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, met for the first time to discuss the global economy. They were joined in 1976 by Canada and in 1998 by Russia. However, following the Russian annexation of Crimea, the G7 nations decided to meet without Russia until further notice. Aside from the seven members, the president of the European Commission and the president of the European Council are also invited to attend the meetings as non-official members, resulting in nine members being in leaders’ group photos and summit meetings.
Ever since its founding, the G7 has listed jobs, inflation and energy crises as its major concerns. The summit has been accused of being an “elite club.” Without a permanent establishment, it is a free association that is not defined by international law and operates in the form of annual summits, reaching a consensus and issuing communiques. When the G7 was founded, the member states’ economies made up 70 percent of the world’s GDP, but it has since dropped to 40 percent.
In contrast, the G20 is larger in scale, as it is composed of the G7 members, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), seven major economic systems and the EU. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing US-China rivalry, the G7 has expanded its guest list, as it seeks to boost ties and broaden backing with the Global South countries.
In addition, the leaders of the attending nations conducted bilateral talks on the sidelines of the summit, with a trilateral summit between the US, Japan and South Korea, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the US, India, Japan and Australia, and a meeting between Biden and Zelenskiy.
The Hiroshima summit was a success, and saw an increase in Kishida’s popularity. The G7 joint communique mentioned China more than two dozen times. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the language used direct and frank, and Biden predicted that relations between the US and China would soon improve.
China, for its part, characterized the G7 as “speculating on China-related issues, smearing and attacking China and grossly interfering in domestic affairs,” while Russia said that the G7 was intent on defeating Russia on the battlefield and on eliminating it as a geopolitical competitor.
Now that the Hiroshima summit is over, the real test of delivering on promises through action is about to begin.
Translated by Rita Wang
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