By Nectar Gan, Jill Disis and Ben Westcott, CNN Business
Editor’s Note: CNN will launch the Meanwhile in China newsletter on June 21, a thrice-weekly update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and its impact on the world. Register here.
US President Joe Biden’s plan to unite Washington’s closest allies and confront China has just won a major political victory. But it will take much more than words to stop the advance of the world’s second-largest economy.
The United States joined the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Canada over the weekend in delivering the Group of Seven’s strongest condemnation against China in recent decades. The G7 facing China on just about every sensitive point, from allegations of human rights violations and forced labor in Xinjiang to the ongoing political conflicts over Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea. The richest democracies in the world have also pushed for a new independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and have promoted a green alternative to China’s Belt and Road, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sweeping plan to bolster its commercial influence.
The rhetoric, at least, is a step forward for a U.S. president who has tried to rally diplomatic partners to counter what Washington sees as its greatest threat to trade, technology, and other issues of strategic importance. Former US President Donald Trump spoke harshly to China and slapped the country and its prized businesses with sanctions. But Trump never really presented a united front with U.S. allies, often burning bridges rather than building them.
The G7 announcement does not include a ton of concrete progress. For example, the group forms a working group to explore what they called the “Rebuilding a Better World” Initiative – a private sector-led plan to “help reduce infrastructure needs of over $ 40 trillion in the developing world” which is clearly presented as a challenge for Belt and Road. But he has yet to say how much the program will cost, which is expected to be funded by U.S. government finance groups, the private sector and G7 countries.
Likewise, the statement’s calls for China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Xinjiang and Hong Kong came with few details on how to follow through with the action, and no offered no practical way to safeguard the stability of the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
China has consistently fought back against the statement, accusing the G7 of deliberately slandering China “and” arbitrarily interfering in China’s internal affairs. ” The Chinese Embassy in London called it a “serious violation of basic standards in international relations.”
There are several reasons why Beijing should watch its back.
Some Trump-era sanctions have been effective in curbing China’s tech boom – look, for example, at its campaign against Huawei, which saw its smartphone and 5G companies beaten by restricting its access to American technology , as well as US pressures on Europe and elsewhere prevent the company from expanding its reach.
Under Biden, the United States recently extended the ban on U.S. investments in dozens of Chinese companies. And U.S. lawmakers are introducing a bill that would inject hundreds of billions of dollars into U.S. technology, science, and research into yet another challenge for China.
“Irreconcilable differences in values and growing frictions with China’s mercantilist and authoritarian model will continue to fuel polarization and competition,” said Alex Capri, research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation and visiting senior researcher at the National University of Singapore. He added that Western “value-driven” frameworks around the development of infrastructure, trade and supply chain networks are “clearly emerging”.
“Human rights standards regarding privacy and freedom of expression, fair labor standards and a healthy environment will serve to further alienate Beijing,” Capri said.
Such tensions have already manifested themselves on the world stage, with many Western companies facing pressure to limit their activities in China due to concerns about forced labor. In turn, some companies have been boycotted in China for denouncing the government’s management of Xinjiang. And just before the start of the G7 summit, China passed a law to counter foreign sanctions, a symbolic warning that any countermeasures taken by the West will face heavy retaliation.
Even so, it can be difficult for G7 countries to contain China. Over the weekend, Democratic leaders expressed serious differences over how best to approach China, as the United States, Britain and Canada urged stronger action against the authoritarianism of the United States. China than their allies did.
The reluctance of European countries to go too hard with China may partly stem from heavy economic dependence: from 2010 to 2019, Germany received 22.7 billion euros ($ 27.5 billion) in Chinese foreign direct investment, while Italy received 15.9 billion euros (19.2 billion dollars) and France received 14.4 billion euros (17.4 billion dollars, according to the Mecrator Institute of China Studies Even the UK – where relations with China have been deeply strained over the past two years – received € 50.3 billion (US $ 60.9) in such an investment. many of these countries, like Germany, rely on partnerships with China to boost other industries, such as the automobile, and provide huge markets for their exports.
“Ultimately, the European Union’s desire for strategic autonomy and Biden’s search for allies to counter China primarily will create natural obstacles to cooperation,” Eurasia Group analysts wrote in a note. last week before Biden’s trip.
- South Korea will exempt certain travelers who received their Covid-19 vaccines abroad after their mandatory two-week quarantine, health authorities announced on Sunday.
- A houseplant with just nine leaves sold for a record $ 19,297 on a New Zealand auction site.
- China unveiled new photos of his Martian rover exploring the surface of the Red Planet, with state media hailing him as a sign of the mission’s “complete success.”
- Meanwhile, the US government has spent the last week assess a leak report in a Chinese nuclear power plant, after a French company part of which owns and helps operate it warned of an “imminent radiological threat,” according to US officials and documents reviewed by CNN.
Deadly explosion sparks bad memories at awkward time for Xi
Senior Chinese leaders have ordered an urgent investigation after 12 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a gas explosion in central China’s Hubei province on Sunday.
Footage from the scene in the Zhangwan district of Shiyan City showed blackened streets covered in debris, with at least one building completely ravaged by the explosion.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation, according to local authorities, and Chinese officials wereted no time in calling for a full investigation.
In a statement released shortly after the incident by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping said those responsible for the explosion should be “held accountable.”
Xi also called for extensive monitoring of security standards across the country to ensure the protection of Chinese citizens.
China has a long history of fatal industrial accidents. On May 26, eight people were killed by an explosion in heilongjiang province caused by illegal explosives. Three days later, eight employees were injured when a raw materials pipeline exploded at an oil refinery in Shenzhen.
Worst of all for the government, Sunday’s explosion in Hubei will awaken memories of the series of explosions in Tianjin in 2015, which killed more than 110 people and raised serious questions about whether the authorities were doing enough to protect Chinese citizens.
Xi made it clear that he was concerned about political considerations. In his statement reported by Xinhua, the Chinese president said it was important to “maintain overall social stability and create a good atmosphere for the Party’s centenary.”
Just weeks away from the July 1 celebrations of the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary, Beijing no longer wants industrial accidents to overshadow its big day.
Photo of the day
Remembrance of the patriot: Dragon boat races were held across China over the weekend to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. The traditional Chinese festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a patriotic poet and minister who lived over 2,000 years ago.