After a prolonged conflict between Russia-G7 (the Group of Seven advanced economies) remaining without any solution so far, now China and G7 are gearing up for a serious conflict which, if not controlled by the big powers, could escalate into a another cold war situation. America’s Asia pivot targeting China (and Russia) and China’s recent military action on South China Sea (SCS) have now placed G7 and China in a conflictual situation. The G-7 grouping comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. The EU is also represented in the club.
The 42nd G7 advanced economies’ summit, held on May 26–27, 2016 at the Shima Kanko Hotel in Kashiko Island, Shima, Mie Prefecture in central Japan, criticized and even warned against military operations on SCS. Russia is not a part of G7 as USA abandoned the G8 in March 2014 that included Russia and reverted back to G7. The G7 had then declared that a meaningful discussion was not possible with Russia in the context of the G8. Since then, meetings have continued within the G7 process, denying Russia a place on this important international forum of advanced economies.
Leaders of the G7 said they were concerned by the situation in the East China and South China Sea. They reiterated their commitment to maintaining a rules-based maritime order, according to international law, and urged the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, including judicial procedures such as arbitration. At the close of their formal session in Ise-Shima, G7 leaders fired a broadside across China’s bows over its behavior in the region, without mentioning Beijing by name. The foreign ministers had urged all states to refrain from such actions as land reclamations and “building of outposts on South China Sea for military purposes”. The G-7 leaders had stressed the importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes through peaceful means.
Though the communiqué, issued at the end of the two-day summit on May 27, the G-7 did not mention China by name, but it is apparent the G7 is targeting only China. The G-7 leaders also condemned “in the strongest terms” North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and its subsequent launches using ballistic missile technology. These acts pose a grave threat to regional and international peace and security, they said, adding that they also deplored human rights violations in North Korea. On terrorism, the G-7 leaders said they will continue to work together to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and terrorism-related materials and equipment, as well as to counter terrorism financing. And, on the migrant crisis gripping Europe, the G-7 “encourages the temporary admission of refugees and establishment of resettlement schemes, to alleviate pressure on countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees”.
The G7 demanded that North Korea fully comply with UN Security Council resolutions and halt nuclear tests, missile launches and other provocative actions. The group condemned Russia’s “illegal annexation” of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. The declaration threatened further restrictive measures to raise the costs on Moscow but said sanctions could be rolled back if Russia implemented previous agreements and respected Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The G7 expressed concern over the East and South China Seas, where China has been taking more assertive action amid territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian nations. The G7 reiterated its commitment to the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes and to respecting the freedom of navigation and overflight. The group called for countries to refrain from “unilateral actions which could increase tensions” and “to settle disputes by peaceful means”.
Meanwhile, the refugee crisis gripping Europe is a problem that the whole world must deal with, G7 leaders said, as it called for beefed-up efforts to tackle the root causes of mass migration. The G7 also called large-scale immigration and migration a major challenge and vowed to increase global aid for the immediate and long-term needs of refugees and displaced people.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and World Bank head Jim Yong Kim, the heads of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Asian Development Bank also attended the summit.
G7 summit focus on global growth
The Group of 7 industrial powers pledged on May 27 to seek strong global growth, while papering over differences on currencies and stimulus policies and expressing concern over North Korea, Russia and maritime disputes involving China. G7 leaders wrapped up a summit in central Japan vowing to use “all policy tools” to boost demand and ease supply constraints. G7 said, in a 32-page declaration, global growth remains moderate and below potential, while risks of weak growth persists.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that global growth is their urgent priority, talking up what he calls parallels to the global financial crisis that followed the 2008 Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, said the G7 shares a strong sense of crisis about the global outlook. The most worrisome risk is a contraction of the global economy, led by a slowdown in emerging economies. Abe has stressed the need for flexible fiscal policy to sustain economic recovery, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been sceptical about public spending to boost growth. The G7 called global industrial overcapacity, especially in steel, a pressing structural challenge with global implications.
Abe told a news conference after chairing the two-day summit that there is a risk of the global economy falling into crisis if appropriate policy responses are not made. In the broad-ranging, the G7 committed to market-based exchange rates and to avoiding competitive devaluation of their currencies, while warning against wild exchange-rate moves. This represents a compromise between the positions of Japan, which has threatened to intervene to block sharp yen rises, and the United States, which generally opposes market intervention.
The G7 encourages international financial institutions and bilateral donors to bolster their financial and technical assistance. It said that a resolution to Syria’s civil war was crucial to plugging the flow of desperate people fleeing across borders. “The G7 recalls that only sustainable political settlements within countries of origin, including Syria, will bring lasting solutions to the problem of forced displacement, including refugees,” the communiqué said.
Large movements of people are a multi-faceted phenomenon, which requires addressing its root causes resulting from conflicts, state fragility and insecurity, demographic, economic and environmental trends as well as natural disasters. The statement came a day after European Council President Donald Tusk warned that the crisis was not just Europe’s problem.
Later, leaders from ‘advanced democracies’ met on Friday with representatives of emerging and developing countries in Asia and Africa. The so-called outreach program involves Chad, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and Laos. G7 host Japan said ahead of the meeting that it would zero in on Asia’s stability and prosperity including “open and stable seas” as well as United Nations sustainable development goals, with a focus on Africa.
The leaders pledged to tackle a global glut in steel, though their statement did not single out China, which produces half of the world’s steel and is blamed by many countries for flooding markets with cheap steel.
The G7 vowed a more forceful and balanced policy mix to achieve a strong, sustainable and balanced growth pattern, taking each country’s circumstances into account, while continuing efforts to put public debt on a sustainable path.
South China Sea
From economic issues, the G7 turned to a topically favourite theme of Chinese ‘interference’ in South China Sea and it appeared the issue got prominence in discussions than expected. Beijing has reiterated that it wants to protect itself from any possible US menace to protect its navigational rights on South China Sea. China is extremely dissatisfied with what Japan and the G7 have done.
The G7 statement angered China and led to Beijing summoning top envoys from the G-7 nations. Beijing lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, and is now embroiled in a territorial dispute with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines over conflicting claims to territory in the waterway. Japan and China are involved in a separate dispute in the East China Sea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said this G-7 summit organised by Japan’s hyping up of the South China Sea issue and exaggeration of tensions is not beneficial to stability in the South China Sea.
China was not pleased with the G7 stance. “This G7 summit organised by Japan’s hyping up of the South China Sea issue and exaggeration of tensions is not beneficial to stability in the South China Sea and does accord with the G7’s position as a platform for managing the economies of developed nations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing. A ruling is expected soon on China’s claims to the South China Sea in a case that the Philippines had brought to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. Beijing has lashed out at the tribunal for “abuse of power”, and said it will ignore its decision.
China’s foreign minister fired a pre-emptive shot at G7 leaders gathering in Japan, warning them not to “escalate tensions” over territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Last month, foreign ministers from the G7 angered Beijing by issuing a thinly veiled statement critical of its “island building” activities in the South China Sea over recent years. The issue is expected to be raised again as G7 heads of state and prime ministers begin two days of discussions in Ise-Shima. “We hope the G7 will focus on urgent economic and financial matters,” Wang Yi said at a briefing in Beijing. “We do not want to see actions that escalate tensions in the region.”
Beijing is locked in a dispute with G7 host Japan over rocky outcroppings in the East China Sea, stoking broader concerns about Beijing’s growing regional might and threats to back up its claims with force, if necessary. China, for its part is engaged in a furious diplomatic charm offensive among developing countries, offering aid and trade in what critics see as a naked bid to rally international support to its cause. The roster of countries Beijing claims back its position on the South China Sea includes Mauritania, Togo and land-locked Niger.
Washington is not a claimant in any of the disputes but has accused Beijing of militarizing the contested waters of the South China Sea. Vietnam and the Philippines are engaged in a number of territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea, where the Chinese military has recently completed airstrips and other infrastructure on contested reefs and islets. Manila has successfully rallied international support through its decision to challenge China’s actions in a tribunal at The Hague — an international legal challenge that Beijing has refused to recognize.
John Kerry, US secretary of state, said the lifting of the Vietnam arms embargo was not aimed at China, despite an increasing number of close encounters between the two countries’ militaries. Even UK PM David Cameron, wants to be now China’s “best friend” in the west, urged Beijing to be part of a “rules-based world” and “abide by these adjudications”. The Pentagon recently complained that People’s Liberation Army jet fighters conducted a dangerously close intercept of a US spy aircraft. Chinese state media reported that USA and Japanese naval vessels had kept a close eye on PLA Navy exercises in the western Pacific.
Meanwhile, reports say in September Beijing will host Obama, Cameron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a G20 meeting of developed and developing economies in Hangzhou, where Wan will make clear that his government would not tolerate a debate over regional territorial disputes. China say the G20’s central task is to promote growth and not dispute resolutions.
China fears that Japan and the US will use the G7 meeting to further isolate Beijing over its increasingly assertive posture in the region. The two countries are also leading members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential trading bloc that has pointedly excluded China from joining as an inaugural member. The reference to maritime issues comes as tensions build over Beijing’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic body of water that encompasses key global shipping lanes. China’s maritime claims and ongoing militarization of islets and outcrops have angered some of its Southeast Asian neighbours, including the Philippines and Vietnam.
Post pandemic: US, China and their deteriorating relationship
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increasing clamor, for reducing imports, especially of essential commodities from China, and for exploring new supply chains.
The US has proposed an ‘Economic Prosperity Network’ consisting of US, India, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo while speaking to the media, reiterated the need for greater cooperation between these countries for pushing forward the global economy, in a post corona world, and also to change existing supply chains.
Similarly, a number of members of the CPTPP (Comprehensive Partnership Trans Pacific Partnership), especially Japan, Singapore and Australia, worked closely, to keep supply chains intact in the midst of covid19 (Japan has also been seeking to expand the CPTPP with the aim of alternative supply chains).
Reducing dependence upon Chinese technologies
Apart from supply chains of essential commodities, steps are being taken to create an alternative to Chinese technologies. UK has recently proposed, that 10 countries work together to counter China’s technologies – especially 5G. This network, Britain has proposed, should include G7 countries (United States, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, France) + South Korea, India and New Zealand. US President Trump further stated, that G7should be expanded to include India, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand.
Resumption of International travel
While there have been numerous discussions on shifting supply chains from China, another challenge posed by the pandemic is likely to be the resumption of international travel. Interestingly, the US has international flights with China from June 16, 2020. This is in line with the US President’s aggressive stance vis-à-vis China. The reason cited for the US President’s decision was China’s refusal to allow US carriers to fly to China (American companies on the other hand have been lobbying for the resumption of flights). China was then compelled to take back on its decision of US airlines.
China has recently allowed business executives to fly in from Germany and South Korea (China and South Korea have also signed a fast track arrangement to reduce the quarantine period for executives travelling).
Domestic flights within Asia
A number of countries in Asia, including Vietnam and India have opened domestic travel (the latter is likely to resume international flights from June 9 to US and Canada). Vietnam had resumed domestic travel after the easing out of social distancing measures, (since then over 500,000 domestic passengers have flown). The ASEAN nation began by opening out five tourist destinations. India resumed domestic Air travel on May 25, 2020 and between then and June 1, 2020 over 4,000 flights have been operated.
Japan seeking to revive air travel
Apart from China, one more country which is working towards resuming air connectivity with other countries is Japan (restrictions will remain in place for some time for US, China and South Korea). The countries, with which Japan is exploring the possibility of air travel are; Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand and Thailand. Japan shares close economic linkages with Australia, Vietnam and Thailand(over 1500 Japanese companies operate in the two ASEAN nations, while Japan is dependent upon Australia for farm products). Japan also receives a large number of tourists from these countries. The East Asian nation is focusing on resuming air connectivity with the above countries for kickstarting the economy, but it is likely to do so in a phased manner; international flights will begin first for business men, then students and finally tourists.
Countries like China, India, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam are looking to revive economic activity and air connectivity, both domestic and international, is essential for the same. It is important, not just to resume air connectivity, but also to learn best practices with regard to precautions.
While all the above steps are welcome, the real challenge for governments, globally, is likely to be in the months of August and September 2020, when students from different parts of the world, need to travel to the west (especially, US, UK and Canada) for pursuing higher education.
The efforts of Japan, New Zealand, Vietnam and Australia yet again reiterate the point, that while all eyes have been on the US and China and their deteriorating relationship, a number of countries have been seeking ways to foster cooperation, not just in dealing with the pandemic, but also for giving a boost to economic ties, and resuming air connectivity.
Exposure of Ulterior Motives Behind Stigmatization of China with COVID-19
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to rage across the US, the American people are complaining about the White House’s “lack of action” in the critical period of pandemic prevention and control, to which, however, Pompeo and his fellow politicians have kept finding excuses for themselves.
To be fair, these politicians have truly had a full plate since the outbreak, although on their plate is not how to control the pandemic at home, but how to make trouble for other countries.
When China, the country first hit by the virus, was busy containing its spread, the US politicians tried to stick their nose into China’s Xinjiang, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and brazenly interfered in the internal affairs of the country by passing the so-called “acts”. On the other hand, they put out a number of ludicrous assumptions like “China made the virus” and “China covered up its pandemic situation”, in an attempt to stigmatize China in the international community and corner it to a moral predicament. Washington leaves no stone unturned when it comes to the use of these ugly tricks.
This isn’t the first time that politicians like Pompeo are trying to loot a burning house – they always jump at the first sign of sniffing such an opportunity. They rolled out sanctions against Iran during its domestic turbulence; they tried to have it both ways when Qatar was on bad terms with countries like Saudi Arabia; and they, on the pretext of “democracy and human rights”, blatantly backed radical and violent criminals in Hong Kong during the riot and unrest caused by the expatriation law amendment bill.
If we go into their ploys seriously, Pompeo and his like are not only professional looters of burning houses, and they set the fire themselves! They first set the house on fire and flame it up, then loot it while occasionally making a gesture of putting out the fire. They are so good at playing “good cop and bad cop” games and busy putting on their farcical performances.
Just take a look at what the US has done in the Middle East. The wars it waged against Iraq and Afghanistan left the two countries in lasting turmoil; the Arab Spring it much-trumpeted left Egypt and Syria in prolonged instability; and its instigation and flame-fueling have led to the growing escalation of Palestine-Israel conflicts, in which the US had sowed seeds.
Yet certain American politicians have the nerve to reap geopolitical gains where they set fire in the first place. Pompeo and his like even posed as saviors or angels claiming to have brought peace to those areas they left in ruins.
How ridiculous and shameful they are! These politicians are accustomed to being cops in name but thieves in nature, calling “stop thief” on the one hand while being that thief on the other. They beautify hegemony as justice and dress up rumor-mongering as freedom of speech.
Pompeo and his like are doomed to a pathetic end. As an old Chinese saying goes, good and evil will meet their karma one day or another, which has been verified on Pompeo and his like over and over again. In the Middle East, for instance, America’s credibility has been irreversibly destroyed no matter how hard Pompeo and his like are trying to bloat their bubble.
The COVID-19 outbreak wouldn’t and shouldn’t have spread so fast and widely across the US had Pompeo and his like devoted a tiny part of their energy and time into what they should have done. The chaotic disaster of Washington’s epidemic control has made millions of Americans suffer, and a growing number of the righteous people are voicing their questions and protests. In contrast, the US media has named Pompeo one of the worst Secretaries of State ever in American history.
Turning a blind eye to the chaos and loss of lives at home, Mike Pompeo and his like, adamant on making trouble for the world, have kept disrupting international cooperation and undermining peace undertakings. They have become the common enemy of world peace and are doomed for a pathetic end. The burning house looters will eventually get burned themselves.
“Mask Diplomacy” and Understating China’s Confucian Strategy in International Relations
It is by no means a hyperbolic phase to call the year 2020 as Anus Horribilis by virtue of the events that have befallen from the very first month. The new year bells rang amid the bush fires in Australia and within seventy-two hours after new year eve the US assassinated Iranian top General Soleimani in Iraq creating an extremely tense situation. Then within a week, the greater disturbance escalated into a worse scenario when Iran launched an attack on the US bases in Iraq.
However, all the above-mentioned events became less significant and probably forgotten when COVID 19 became an unmitigated disaster creating chaos around the world. But when it emerged in China at the end of 2019 the morbid fascination shown by the US foreign policy analysts was a palpable factor as the US perceived that repercussions of COVID 19 in Wuhan may inevitably stagnate the magic economic growth that China has been witnessing. But this irrational jubilation was short lived as it ultimately turned to irrational disappear with rapid spread of COVID 19 as a global pandemic which has now brutally wounded the USA making it as the current epicenter whereas China has slowly begun to recover from its eleventh-hour moment. The unexpected situation erupted in the West before coping with the corona virus was followed by China’s evasive global aid campaign against Coronavirus as Chinese opted for “mask diplomacy” by sending medical supplies to European countries and the portrayal of China as the scapegoat was vindicated by these actions.
So, it is intriguing that, especially the growing emphasis on China’s liability for concealing the corona virus when it emerged in Wuhan from the global community, that China gleefully clung to its mask diplomacy across Europe when European solidarity was at stake. Especially, China’s gusto in supplying medical aid and masks to Italy was a notable factor as it has altered the hostile public perception pervaded in Italian society towards China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative). For example, there was a massive criticism on Chinese BRI project in Italy, particularly in relation to its potential threat to debilitate Northern Italy’s economy. China seized the moment in such a berating atmosphere towards them in Italy as the good Samaritan. China’s massive medical supply and masks to Italy even as European Union failed to rally around one of is leading economies played a crucial role in China’s position in Italy. In fact, Italy was just one example showing the astuteness of China’s mask diplomacy amid many COVID crisis.
Nevertheless, the causes rooted in Chinese bonhomie seems to have been propelled by Xi Jin Ping’s biggest dream of leading China to the global political realm and the apathy shown by the USA contrary to its historical Atlantic alliance with Europe boosted China’s “Mask’s Diplomacy” significantly. While ascertaining the Chinese strategy amid the COVID crisis to uplift their good name in the Western world, one cannot forget the trajectories shaped up Chinese foreign policy that have mainly derived from Modern Chinese infatuation with their ancient Confucian values in diplomacy. The Gift giving has been depicted as rather essential feature in Confucian ethics and it was well applied by several dynasties in imperial China to expand Chinese influence beyond its frontiers. China’s ethical guru Confucius venerated ethics over law.In emulating the principle of virtue, the importance given to ritual has played a significant one, because in the Chinese ancient book of rites, the governance and giving were linked to ritual. It was believed that gift giving as a ritual was filled with reverence and sense of generosity and also it was expected to receive blessings from the receiver.
The Confucian ethics prevailed in imperial China reached its nadir after the formation of People’s Republic of China grounded on Communism. Yet, its importance came back to the practice with steeping growth of China as a global political, economic and military power in the late 20th century. In particular, the famous gift giving strategy adopted by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the 80’s to make comity with the USA was known as Panda Diplomacy which resulted in a considerable diplomatic triumph for China.
From a vantage point the Chinese strategy of sending medical aid and masks to foreign countries, especially to EU states is akin to how Chinese approach to develop foreign relations under Confucian values, but its deeper political expectations seem to have been envisaged by the west with a sense of doubt. Especially, China’s act of sending masks and medical aid was seen as a way to extend Beijing’s political leverage to other countries and divert world attention from discussing China’s culpability for spreading corona virus. The Chief of the European Union Joseph Borell has described this phenomenon as “the politics of generosity”, simultaneously the West has lampooned China for conducting provocative campaigns against neighboring countries from Taiwan to Japan by taking the advantage of corona chaos. The criticism focusing on Beijing’s actions are been propelled by China’s contemporary attitude to increase its participation in global politics contrary to its initial claim on peaceful rise, which used to be the mantra of Chinese depiction of their yearning to become a super power under Hu Jintao.
Given this situation of West’s ambivalence to view Chinse “Mask Diplomacy” as an evasive action to change the global attitude towards China, the Confucian ideals need to be reexamined as it guides foreigners to fathom how Chinese vision works. As I stated above gift giving culture played a dominant role in ancient China under Confucian ethics to underpin the social harmony. Throughout its civilizational saga, China always called herself the middle kingdom and kept paternal relations with the neighboring states. Thus, it is justifiable to argue the way Chinese have been using the the Mask Diplomacy is not entirely an act of manipulation of opportunities as it has been vehemently critiqued by the West. Indeed, its roots have derived from China’s unique civilizational approach to international affairs.
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