Leaders of the United States of America, UK, Germany, France, Japan, Italy and Canada gathered in Cornwall, a county in South West England to embark on an adversarial vision of the future. The loud message of this year’s G7 summit was to counter the influence of China around the world. Promises have been made, projects have been envisioned and billions of dollars have been set in motion, all to counter China in all regions across the world. But the approach of the G7 summit seems hollow at best and the objectives have been termed faulty by analysts and geo-strategic experts. It is ironic to notice that the most powerful nations of the globe are unable to conceptualise the world today, let alone act to improve it.
The G7 summit has some odd numbers attached with it, and these numbers speak volumes about its effectiveness and relevance to world issues. No doubt the G7 countries possess 40 percent of the global GDP and have only 1/10th of the world’s population. That alone, stands testimony to the fact that the G7 summit does not represent the greatest nations of the world but only wealthy ones. Strangely, Russia was part of the G8 summit but was suspended from the group after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. The G7 is then, an ideal of common goals, mutual interests and shared values. Many have even criticised the G7 for being a representative body of White Christian ethnicities excluding Japan. The G7 is not popular nor representative of the world or nationalities across continents. It is simply a gathering of rich nations who want to protect their interests by all means possible.
The primary agenda, as spoken out clearly and vividly by Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Angela Merkel in particular, is the countering of Chinese influence. The G7 summit criticised the Chinese Government for human rights violations against the Uighur population. The G7 also accused China of meddling in the state affairs of Hong Kong and demanded Beijing to suspend all security laws and enforcement procedures hampering Hong Kong’s independence. Thirdly, the G7 termed the growing Chinese influence in developing countries as a debt trap. The intention of the summit is clear but the methodology is feeble and obtuse.
To nullify the effect of Chinese expansion, the G7 announced that it would spare around 40 billion dollars to support Green technologies across developing nations and assist them in reducing carbon emissions. Secondly, the G7 would fund and assist labour standardisation and work under the ambit of the World Labour Organisation to support labour protections laws and standards. Third, the greatest threat to modern economies is corruption, the G7 would spend huge amounts of funds to bolster anti-corruption agencies in middle-income countries. All these are no doubt exceptionally idealistic approaches but near the end of the summit, only Germany and France were willing to accept binding budgets. On the other hand, no timelines, targets or implementation models have been developed as yet. The richest nations of the world have decided a direction but are still figuring out the path to take.
The Chinese Government was not intimidated by the press releases and agenda meetings of the G7 countries summit. Beijing responded in a swift and contained manner. The most significant statement was, “Long gone are the days when a small group of countries decided the fate of the world” from the Chinese Foreign Affairs office.
From an analytical perspective, a comparison can be drawn between the G7 B3W project and the Chinese OBOR project. The B3W project mainly focuses on climate change with added boons of anti-corruption and labour funds while OBOR is much more realistic, grounded and an integral part of development. In terms of climate change, it must be pointed out that it was the United States that backed out of the Kyoto Convention and decided not to abide by carbon emission targets. Now, Joe Biden has come up with this grand idea of a green climate change fund for developing nations but his republican predecessor did not believe in climate change as a whole. China’s OBOR project connects on a physical level whereas the G7 idea of connectivity is vague and superficial.
The most frequently used argument against China is the debt trap trick. The G7 countries are of the view that China is engulfing poorer countries into loans and substituting those loans with Governmental influence and on-ground presence. But alternatively, China is providing uplift projects to give an opportunity to join the developed world. Most of the nations are already under massive loans and bailouts by the World Bank and IMF which are directly controlled by G7 or Washington. Instead, China is offering a chance to build and grow together. Even India is not a part of the G7 even with a massive population. Also, Italy, despite being a G7 country, has signed up to be a part of the Chinese OBOR project. Pakistan and Gwadar are a glaring example of bilateral ties, cooperation and regional integrity which was never possible under the brutal economic sanctions of the IMF and World Bank. China is an expanding superpower which is rising with a new approach towards development, the old world with its hegemonic Western controls is fading and new world is coming to light, it can be expected that the modern World will give way to a superpower that speaks for all and stands for equality, similar to the socialist foundations of its founding fathers, an ode to Mao Zedong.
Imtiaz Rafi Butt
The writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation.