LONDON – The Group of 7 was set up to help coordinate the economic policies of the world’s leading industrial powers. For the past four decades, it has acted to combat energy shortages, global poverty and financial crises.
But when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with a group of seven foreign ministers in London this week, a central item on the agenda will be what Mr Blinken called in remarks to the press on Monday, “to defend democratic values and open society.”
Implicit is the defense against China and to a lesser extent Russia. While the economic and public tasks of recovering from the coronavirus remain crucial, Mr Blinken is also using the group of 7 ̵
A twist on this week’s meeting is the presence of non – formal groups of 7 members: India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa. Also participating are Brunei, the current president of the Association of South East Asian Nations.
It is no coincidence that these guest nations are in the Indo-Pacific region, making them central to Western efforts to fight Beijing’s growing economic strength and territorial ambition. China was the subject of a 90-minute opening session Tuesday morning, and the schedule ended with a group dinner on the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
“The broader context of these meetings is China, and the authoritarian challenge that China presents to the democratic world,” said Ash Jain, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Mr. Jain noted how the group now emphasizes common values in relation to common economic interests. The G-7 is being renamed as a group of like-minded democracies as opposed to a group of ‘highly industrialized nations’. They change weight, ”he said.
Many of the countries represented at the meeting are doing great business with China and Russia, complicating efforts to adapt them to these nations. China’s pattern of economic coercion was a specific topic of conversation on Tuesday, participants said.
But those efforts have been simplified by the departure of President Donald J. Trump, who repeatedly chose to fight with a group of 7 allies and confused them with calls to restore Russia, which was expelled in 2014 from the then group of 8 after its annexation. of Crimea from Ukraine.
It is also unlikely that the expanded guest list coincides with the addition of South Africa and Brunei, a group of 10 countries and the European Union, collectively short-termed as “D-10” by supporters of organizing them into a new world body. These proponents include Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, who is hosting this week’s collection and architect of its guest list.
Sir. Johnson has also invited India, Australia and South Korea to send their heads of state to this summer’s Group at the Cornwall 7 Summit, citing his “ambition to work with a group of like-minded democracies to advance common interests and tackle common challenges.”
President Biden has also suggested that the world is grouped into competing camps divided by the openness of their political systems. In his speech to 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 also pledges to hold a “summit for democracy” during his first year in office, and officials say planning for such an event is underway. Asked in a Tuesday interview with The Financial Times which countries may be invited to such a summit, Mr. Do not blink directly.
And Wednesday’s agenda for the rally includes a session on open communities, 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.
A group of 7 nations is concerned about the creation of a new global body that could contribute to a polarization in the style of the Cold War along ideological lines.
At a joint press conference on Monday, Mr. Blinken and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, were careful not to suggest that they formed a new club.
Asked whether a new “alliance of democracies” might be emerging, Mr Raab said he did not see things in such “theological” terms, but that he saw a growing need for “agile clusters of like-minded countries,” who share the same values and want to protect the multilateral system. ”
When answering the same question, Mr Blinken was careful to insist that this week’s meetings did not correspond to planning against Beijing.
“It is not our purpose to try to restrict China or keep China down,” he said. Blinken. “What we are trying to do is maintain the international rule-based order that our countries have invested so much in for so many decades, for the benefit, I would argue, not only for our own citizens, but for people all over the world – including by the way China. “The line is not just for public consumption. US diplomats have forwarded the same message privately, almost verbatim, to foreign colleagues.)
But in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired the night before, Mr. Blink clearly how the United States sees China’s progress.
“I believe that over time, China believes that it can and should be and will be the dominant country in the world,” 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 now research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it was much easier to informally expand the group of 7 than to build a new body.
“It is always painful from a government perspective to invent a new forum because you need an endless discussion about who is inside and who is out and how it works and its relationship with the UN,” Shapiro said. .
He added that the group of 7, whose mission had become unclear in recent years, may have gained a new sense of purpose as it seeks to organize a democratic world after Trump in the face of Chinese and Russian threats.
“You would be hard pressed to look back on the last five years or more since they kicked Russia out to name a single thing that the G-7 has done of interest,” Shapiro said. “It did not have much to do.”