China on the G7 Agenda

The 47th G7 summit was held from June 11-13 in Cornwall. China is, of course, not a member of the G7, yet the country was on everyone’s mind, as illustrated brilliantly by @relevantorgans. While the word “China” was “only” mentioned four times in the communiqué issued by the summit’s participants, each mention was ponderous.

First, the G7 leaders called for “a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China.” The somewhat pointed language suggests not only dissatisfaction with China’s responses so far, it also hints at increasing concerns within the G7 leadership over the lab leak theory.

China then got called out for its “non-market policies and practices which undermine the fair and transparent operation of the global economy.” Americans have gotten used to this kind of language over the past few years, but its inclusion in the communiqué indicates that U.S. allies are coming around to a more robust approach to China’s protectionist shenanigans. This in turn may reflect, to some degree, rising frustration by businesspersons from France, Britain, Canada, and other G7 countries, as they gain longer-term perspectives.

The toughest language on China related to its internal policies, with the G7 “calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”

These explicit mentions indicate the group will not give China a free pass on domestic matters. In the case of Hong Kong in particular, it suggests China’s misdeeds will not be forgotten, even as the dismantling of the city’s rule of law becomes a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, and though not mentioning China or Xinjiang, the communiqué included an entire paragraph on forced labor, which reads in relevant part:

We commit to continue to work together including through our own available domestic means and multilateral institutions to protect individuals from forced labour and to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour. We therefore task G7 Trade Ministers to identify areas for strengthened cooperation and collective efforts towards eradicating the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains, ahead of the G7 Trade Ministers’ meeting in October 2021.

As you read the above, keep in mind that in the same communiqué the G7 touted its plans for “an ambitious global minimum tax of at least 15 per cent.” This is not a grouping afraid of concerted action, nor of deploying bureaucracies to tackle problems. It is reasonable to expect moves toward harmonization of forced labor enforcement, which in practice could mean tougher standards across the G7 and its sphere of influence. Among the conceivable measures are cross-enforcement of exclusion orders and the rollout of compliance audit programs by more governments.

The final mention did not refer to the country, but to the East and South China Seas. In any case, this was a jab at Beijing’s aggressive stances in its periphery, accompanied by a call for “peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”

Back in January 2020, we issued 13 China predictions, many of which anticipated growing European disenchantment with China–and this was all before the pandemic. Cornwall makes clear those predictions were on the money.

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