(LR) President of the European Council 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 11 June 2021.
Ludovic Marin | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — On Saturday, the second day of the annual summit, President Joe Biden will pressure G-7 leaders to take concrete steps to counter China’s growing global influence.
One of these steps is a global infrastructure initiative called “Build Back Better for the World.” The multi-billion dollar plan, parts of which have been previously announced, aims to create what a White House official described as a “higher quality” 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 argue that the country has also tried to use these investments to build political goodwill and discourage criticism of its leadership and institutions.
The new G-7 plan will be funded in part with existing US contributions to overseas infrastructure financing, 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’s development finance toolkit.
“The hope is that, together with G-7 partners, the private sector and other stakeholders, we will soon collectively catalyze hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries that need it,” said a senior government official, who claimed anonymity. was granted to discuss ongoing negotiations during a meeting with reporters Friday.
Biden administration officials insist the project is not about making countries choose between the United States and China.
“This is about offering an affirmative, alternative view and approach that they would like to take,” a second government official told reporters at a briefing on Friday.
“What we are promoting is a confident, positive agenda aimed at rallying other countries who share our values on the issues that matter most,” the official said.
Biden’s most challenging task on Saturday will be to convince G-7 leaders to take concrete action to tackle the “genocide and crimes against humanity” China is perpetrating against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.
But rather than pressuring G-7 leaders to bluntly 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 attack on human dignity and a blatant example of China’s unfair economic competition,” a government official said. “The point is to send a wake-up call that the G-7 is serious about defending human rights, and that we must work together to eliminate 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 G-7 members are “willing to be as confrontational with China as Washington asks,” Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center, told The South China Morning Post.
“Most prefer to have a constructive economic relationship while quietly opposing certain Chinese practices,” Roy said. “Even Japan, which is generally aggressive towards China, has been hesitant to sign sanctions against China over the mistreatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”
And as of early Saturday morning, it was not yet clear whether China would be named in the final public statement that the G-7 leaders will make on Sunday, the so-called 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-7,” a senior Biden official said at the briefing. “But it’s too early to say what will end in the final finale [communique].”
China is closely monitoring the G-7 meetings, and earlier this week a government spokesman in Beijing spoke about the US’s plan to put China at the center of the G-7’s agenda.
“That fueling confrontation is definitely on an unwise path,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a news conference. “Getting up, pursuing bloc politics and forming small cliques are unpopular and doomed to failure.”
From left to right: Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, US President Joe Biden, Yoshihide Suga, the Prime Minister of Japan, Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, the Italian Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron, Frances President, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, during the family photo on the first day of the Summit of the Group of Seven Leaders in Carbis Bay, UK, on Friday 11 June 2021.
Hollie Adams | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The G-7 meetings end on Sunday, after which Biden travels to Brussels to attend a NATO summit on Monday. There, too, the United States will advocate a strategy to counter China’s global influence.
A Biden administration official said the summit would be the first time NATO countries “will address China’s security challenge directly in a communiqué”.
But Biden is also expected to face the same challenges in Brussels as in England: the reluctance of many European countries to jeopardize their deep economic ties with Beijing by confronting China directly with its malicious actions and alleged human rights abuses.
Biden will meet with European Union leaders on Tuesday.
Following those meetings, the president will hold a summit in Geneva on June 16 with Russian President Vladimir Putin.