LONDON – The Group of 7 was set up to help coordinate economic policy between the world’s best industrial powers. For the next four decades, he has been working to combat energy shortages, global poverty and financial crises.
But while this week Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken met with colleagues from the 7 foreign ministers in London, a key item on the agenda will be what Mr Blinken called for in remarks to the press on Monday, “defending democratic values and open societies. “
It is implicit that the defense is against China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. Although the economic and societal challenges of coronavirus recovery remain paramount, Mr Blinken also uses the Group of 7 ̵
A turning point at this week’s meeting is the presence of countries that are not officially a Group of 7 members: India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa. Brunei, the current president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was also present.
It is no coincidence that these visiting countries are located in the Indo-Pacific region, which makes them central to the West’s efforts to cope with Beijing’s growing economic power and territorial ambition. China was the subject of a 90-minute session on Tuesday morning, and the schedule ended with a group dinner in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
“The broader context of these meetings is China and the authoritarian challenge that China poses to the democratic world,” said Ash Jain, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Mr Jane noted the way in which the group now emphasizes common values over shared economic interests. “The G7 is being renamed a group of like-minded democracies, as opposed to a group of ‘highly industrialized nations.’ They change the focus, “he said.
Many of the countries represented at the meeting are doing big business with China and Russia, complicating efforts to bring them into line with these nations. The Chinese model of economic coercion is one of the specific topics of conversation on Tuesday, participants said.
But those efforts have been simplified by the departure of President Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly selected battles with Group 7 allies and disturbed them with calls for the reconstruction of Russia, which was expelled in 2014 by the then Group 8 after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
It is also no coincidence that the expanded guest list coincides with the additions of South Africa and Brunei, a group of 10 countries and the European Union, collectively discouraged as “D-10s” by supporters to organize them into a new global body. Among those supporters are British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, host of this week’s meeting and architect of the guest list.
Mr Johnson also invited India, Australia and South Korea to send their heads of state to the Group of 7 summit in Cornwall this summer, citing “its ambition to work with a group of like-minded democracies to advance the common interest and tackling common challenges. “
President Biden suggested that the world is grouped into competing camps, separated by the openness of their political systems. Addressing Congress last week, Mr Biden said that “America’s opponents, the world’s autocrats, are betting” that the nation’s battered democracy cannot be restored.
As a candidate, Mr Biden has also pledged to hold a Democracy Summit in his first year in office, and officials say a similar event is planned. Asked in an interview with The Financial Times on Tuesday which countries could be invited to such a summit, Mr Blinken did not respond directly.
And the agenda of the meeting includes a session on open societies, including issues of media freedom and disinformation. Other sessions during the two days include Syria, Russia and its neighbors Ukraine and Belarus, Myanmar and Afghanistan.
Some groups of 7 countries are concerned about the creation of a new global body that could contribute to ideological Cold War-style polarization.
During a joint press conference on Monday, Mr Blinken and his British counterpart Dominic Raab were careful not to suggest that they were setting up a new club.
Asked if a new “union of democracies” could emerge, Mr Raab said he did not see things with such a “theological” term, but saw a growing need for “flexible groups of like-minded people who share the same values and want to defend the multilateral system. “
Asked the same question, Mr Blinken was careful to insist that the meetings this week were not a conspiracy against Beijing.
“Our goal is not to try to hold China or keep China,” Mr Blinken said. “What we are trying to do is to maintain an international order based on rules in which our countries have invested so much over so many decades, for the benefit, I would say, not only of our own citizens but also of the people of the world – including, by the way, China. “The line is not just for public consumption. American diplomats conveyed the same message privately, almost verbatim, to foreign counterparts.”
But in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” the night before, Mr Blinken made it clear how the United States views China’s rise.
“I think over time, China believes it can and should be and will be the dominant country in the world,” Mr Blinken said. China is challenging the international order, he said, adding that “we will stand up and defend it.”
Jeremy Shapiro, a State Department official in the Obama administration who is currently director of research at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the informal expansion of the Group of 7 was much easier than building a new body.
“From a government point of view, it is always a pain to come up with a new forum because you have to have an endless discussion about who comes in and who is out there and how it works and how it relates to the UN,” Mr Shapiro said. .
He added that the Group of 7, whose mission has grown in recent years, may have gained a new sense of purpose as it tries to organize a democratic world after Trump in the face of Chinese and Russian threats.
“It’s hard to look back in the last five years or so since they drove Russia out to name a single thing that the G-7 has done out of interest,” Shapiro said. “There wasn’t much to do.”