(LR) President of the European Council Charles Michel, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, Great Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen will take part in a working session at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, on June 11, 2021.
Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will urge G-7 leaders to take concrete steps to counter China’s increasing global influence on Saturday, the second day of the annual summit.
One of those steps will be a global infrastructure initiative called “Build Back Better for the World”. The multi-billion dollar plan, parts of which have already been announced, aims to create an alternative to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure project, which a White House official described as “higher quality”.
China has been developing land and sea routes between East Asia and the rest of the world for nearly a decade. Critics claim the country has also tried to use these investments to build political goodwill and discourage criticism of its leadership and institutions.
The new G-7 plan is partially financed with existing US contributions to infrastructure financing abroad through institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The Biden administration also plans to work with Congress to increase US contributions to the G-7’s development finance toolkit.
“The hope is that together with G-7 partners, the private sector and other stakeholders, we will soon collectively catalyze hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investments for low and middle income countries,” said a senior civil servant who called on Friday anonymity was granted with reporters to discuss ongoing negotiations.
The Biden administration staff insist that the project is not about choosing countries between the US and China.
“This is about offering a positive, alternative vision and approach that they want to choose,” a second government official told reporters during a briefing Friday.
“What we are promoting is a confident, positive agenda that focuses on attracting other countries that share our values on key issues,” the official said.
Biden’s toughest job on Saturday will be to convince G-7 leaders to take concrete action to combat what the United States calls the “genocide and crimes against humanity” that China predominantly targets Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province.
But rather than pressuring G-7 leaders to flatly condemn China’s treatment of Uyghurs, Biden will take a more diplomatic approach. The president will argue that China’s use of Uighur forced labor constitutes unfair economic competition.
Biden “will make the world understand that we believe these practices are a violation of human dignity and a tremendous example of China’s unfair economic competition,” said a government official. “It’s about sending a wake-up call that the G-7 is serious about defending human rights and that we must work together to eliminate forced labor from our products.”
But there is no guarantee that Biden can convince the rest of his G-7 partners to take concrete action.
Not all G7 members are “ready to be as confrontational to China as Washington demands,” Denny Roy, a senior official at the East-West Center, told the South China Morning Post.
“Most would rather have a constructive economic relationship while quietly opposing certain Chinese practices,” said Roy. “Even Japan, which is generally restrictive on China, has been reluctant to sign sanctions against China for mistreating Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”
And by early Saturday morning it was not yet clear whether China would be mentioned by name in the later public statement by the G-7 leaders on Sunday, the so-called communique.
“We are pushing to be specific in areas like Xinjiang, where there is forced slavery and where we as the G-7 need to express our values,” a senior Biden official said during the briefing. “But it’s too early to say what will end in the final [communique]. “
China is closely monitoring the G-7 meetings, and earlier this week a government spokesman in Beijing addressed the US plan to put China at the center of the G-7 agenda.
“These confrontations are definitely on the wrong track,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference. “Alliances, block politics and form small cliques are unpopular and doomed to failure.”
Left to right: Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, US President Joe Biden, Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, Italy’s Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, Frances President Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor, during the family photo on the first day of the Summit of the Group of Seven Heads of State and Government in Carbis Bay, Great Britain, on Friday, June 11, 2021.
Hollie Adams | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The G-7 meetings will end on Sunday, after which Biden will travel to Brussels, where he will attend a NATO summit on Monday. There, too, the US will advocate a strategy to counter China’s global influence.
A Biden government official said the summit will be the first time NATO countries “address China’s security challenge directly in a communiqué.”
However, Biden is expected to face some of the same challenges in Brussels as he did in England: the reluctance of many European countries to jeopardize their deep economic ties with Beijing by confronting China directly over its malevolent acts and alleged human rights abuses.
On Tuesday, Biden will meet with the heads of state and government of the European Union.
Following these meetings, the President is due to hold a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16.