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Group of Seven conducting economic warfare

By Daryl Guppy | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-05-22 09:09
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Japanese police clash with anti-G7 protesters in Hiroshima, Japan, on Sunday as leaders of the G7 countries met for a summit. PHILIP FONG/AFP

There is a terrible irony in the location of the Group of Seven meeting and the changing focus of the G7. Held in Hiroshima, Japan, the first city to be destroyed by a nuclear attack, this year's meeting has made maintaining the hegemonic order its primary agenda.

Founded primarily to facilitate shared macroeconomic initiatives in response to contemporary economic problems, the G7 is now conducting economic warfare.

The official agenda proclaims that the purpose of the meeting is "demonstrating the G7's strong determination to uphold the international order based on the rule of law, firmly rejecting any unilateral attempt to change the status quo".

The G7, by its very membership, fails to acknowledge that the economic status quo has changed and that it cannot prevent the second-largest economy from having a say in how this order may evolve in the future. A more useful focus would be on how to adjust to this change and peacefully develop a multipolar system.

The meeting agenda includes "strengthening outreach to the Global South, by demonstrating G7's contributions to the issues of their concern". The G7 was to hold discussions on current development issues, taking into account the concept of "human security" and the "human-centered approach".

This agenda item is a belated, pale imitation of the Global Development Initiative, which was proposed by President Xi Jinping at the United Nations in 2021 and was not supported by the G7. It has all the characteristics of a rush to catch up on the lead established by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which supports development in the Global South without imposing a hegemonic ideological agenda.

The G7 agenda proposed that the meeting would reaffirm and strengthen cooperation on a "free and open Indo-Pacific". The reaction of G7 members to recent Chinese naval exercises is ample evidence of the true purpose of this agenda item and the double standards of the group. "Free and open "use of international waters by China is apparently not permitted, while the aggressive "freedom of navigation" exercises by G7 members are acceptable.

It's difficult to treat the G7 meeting with the gravitas it aspires to when it excludes the world's second-largest economy, which contributes over 18 percent to world growth. This exclusion casts doubt on any claim that G7 decisions reflect a global consensus on a rules-based order.

Nonetheless, the G7 meeting is significant because this year's host, Japan, is trying to turn the G7 into a NATO-like defense bloc by Japan's aligning itself with the (once) great European colonial powers, as it did in World War I.

This objective is clear, not just from the focus of the agenda discussions, but from the invitation of eight nonmember countries, many of which wish to limit China's growth.

The G7 has become an anti-China coalition. This shift undermines the legitimacy of the organization, but that does not mean its pronouncements can be ignored. And these G7 edicts must be evaluated in the light of the G7 becoming an instrument of hegemony rather than of cooperation.

High on the list of aggressive tactics to preserve the G7 version of the rules-based order may be the proposal by the US to impose further sanctions on Russia.

Sanctions are a favorite weapon deployed by the US. It's a weapon that causes mass economic destruction, where the impact falls most heavily on the civilian population.

The potential continued use of sanctions as a weapon is a major concern for the Global South, where countries worry about the collateral damage inflicted on their economies and the way this hinders their progress toward prosperity.

It's a proposal that seems very much at odds with the promoted G7 policy of strengthening outreach to the Global South.

The G7 conclave cannot be ignored, although ultimately its influence will give way to broader representative organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The prestige of the G7 may linger, but the real centers of decision-making will continue to move toward regional trade groups such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and multilateral political organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, all of which acknowledge and are supported by China.

These moves are facilitated by a de-dollarization of international trade that is motivated by the way the US has weaponized the dollar-denominated trade settlement system.

It is good that the G7 observer invitation list acknowledges the need to be more inclusive, but it is nothing less than a desperate gamble for survival and relevance when the meeting excludes China.

Most of the world wants rules that are written in a multipolar or multilateral setting, not rules written by the US along with a few friends and allies in the G7.

The G7 approach is the very opposite of China's inclusive cooperation.

The author is an international financial technical analyst and a former national board member of the Australia China Business Council.

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