Biden urges G-7 leaders to take unified approach to counter China

(LR) European Council President Charles Michel, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend 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 press G-7 leaders to take concrete action to counter China’s growing global influence on Saturday, the second day of the annual summit.

One of those steps will be a global infrastructure initiative called “Building Back Better for the World”. The multibillion-dollar plan, parts of which have already been announced, aims to create what a White House official has described as a “better” alternative to China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure project “.

China has been developing land and sea routes between East Asia and the rest of the world for nearly a decade. Critics say the country has also sought to leverage these investments to build political goodwill and deter criticism of its leaders and institutions.

The new G-7 plan will be funded in part by existing US contributions to financing infrastructure 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 Development Finance Toolkit.

“The hope is that 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. who need it, ”said a senior administration official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the ongoing negotiations during a call with reporters on Friday.

Wizards in the Biden administration insist the plan is not about making countries choose between the United States and China.

“It’s about offering an affirmative and alternative vision and approach that they would like to choose,” a second administration official told reporters in a briefing on Friday.

“What we are promoting is a confident and positive agenda focused on rallying other countries that share our values ​​on the issues that matter most,” said the official.

Biden’s toughest job on Saturday will be convincing G-7 leaders to take concrete action to tackle what the United States calls the “genocide and crimes against humanity” that China is committing against the Uyghurs predominantly Muslim in Xinjiang province.

But rather than pressure G-7 leaders to categorically condemn China’s treatment of Uyghurs, Biden will take a more diplomatic approach. The president will argue that China’s use of forced Uyghur labor represents unfair economic competition.

Biden “will make it clear to the world that we believe these practices are an affront to human dignity and a blatant example of unfair economic competition from China,” an administration official said. “The aim is to send a wake-up call that the G-7 is serious about defending human rights and that we must work together to eradicate forced labor from our products.”

But there is no guarantee that Biden will be able to convince the rest of his G-7 partners to take concrete action.

Not all members of the G-7 are “prepared to be as confrontational with China as Washington demands,” Denny Roy, senior researcher at the East-West Center, told the South China Morning Post.

“Most would prefer to have a constructive economic relationship while quietly opposing certain Chinese practices,” Roy said. “Even Japan, which is generally hawkish towards China, has been reluctant to sign sanctions against China for the mistreatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”

And on Saturday morning, it was not yet clear whether China would be mentioned by name in the possible public statement that G-7 leaders will issue on Sunday, known as the communiqué.

“We insist on being specific in areas like Xinjiang, where forced slavery takes place and where we need to express our values ​​as G-7s,” a senior Biden official said at the briefing. “But it’s too early to say what will end in the final [communique]. “

China is closely monitoring G-7 meetings, and earlier this week a government spokesperson in Beijing referred to the US plan to put China at the forefront of the G-7 agenda.

“These fanned confrontations are definitely on a misguided path,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference. “Coming together, pursuing a bloc policy and forming small cliques are unpopular and doomed to failure. “

From left to right: Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, US President Joe Biden, Yoshihide Suga, Japanese Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, Italian Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron, French President Ursula von der Leyen European Commission President Angela Merkel German Chancellor during the family photo on the first day of the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in Carbis Bay, UK on Friday 11 June 2021.

Hollie Adams | Bloomberg | Getty Images

G-7 meetings will end on Sunday, after which Biden will travel to Brussels, where he will attend a NATO summit on Monday. Here too, the United States will advocate a strategy to counter China’s global influence.

A Biden administration official said the summit would mark the first time NATO countries “will directly address China’s security challenge in a statement.”

But Biden is also expected to face some of the same challenges in Brussels that he has in England: the reluctance of many European countries to endanger their deep economic ties with Beijing by directly confronting China for its malicious actions and alleged human rights violations. human rights. .

On Tuesday, Biden will meet with leaders of the European Union.

Following these meetings, the president is due to hold a summit on June 16 in Geneva with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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