Biden traded Trump’s go-it-alone approach to China for consensus-building. It might be working
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President Joe Biden used his swing through Europe this week to urge leaders of the world’s major democracies to rally behind the United States in countering the rising economic and security influence of China.
On Saturday, at a seaside gathering in Cornwall, England, with leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies, Biden won support for a plan that would offer developing nations hundreds of billions of dollars in financing for infrastructure and measures to curtail carbon emissions. The G7 leaders also backed a pledge to supply poorer countries with a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines within the year.
The proposals lacked detail, and there remained disagreement among senior officials from the G7 countries as to how they should be implemented. But it was clear that, in broad terms, the group had coalesced behind a U.S.-led effort to blunt the appeal of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to connect China and Europe with a multi-trillion dollar web of roads, railways, ports, and communications networks.
Similarly, the G7’s vaccine commitment was aimed at one-upping China in vaccine diplomacy; to date, Beijing has supplied other nations with about 265 million Chinese-made vaccines, more than all other nations combined, and has promised to provide more than 440 million more.
A 25-page joint statement released by the leaders Sunday called on China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Xinjiang, the northwestern province that is home to millions of Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, and in Hong Kong, where Beijing last year imposed a sweeping new national security law.
The Wall Street Journal reports that China was the main subject of a 90-minute meeting on Saturday in which “G7 leaders agreed broadly that Beijing was a concern,” although there was considerable haggling over how forcefully to express those concerns in the final communique.
On Monday, Biden traveled to Brussels where, according to Reuters, he urged fellow leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organiziation (NATO) to “stand up to China’s authoritarianism and growing military might, a change of focus for an alliance created to defend Europe from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.” Language in the NATO communique issued following that meeting warned explicitly of the military threat posed by China.
“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” said the statement, which also expressed concern about China’s expanding nuclear arsenal and its military cooperation with Russia.
China denounced statements by both gatherings. On Monday, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London accused the G7 of making “baseless accusations” and demanded that the group “stop slandering China, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop harming China’s interests.” On Tuesday, China’s mission to the European Union blasted the NATO statement as “a misjudgment of the international situation” and a symptom of the alliance’s “Cold War mentality.”
China takes a dim view of the G7, NATO, and a host of other democratic groupings such as “the Quad” (the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India) and the Five Eyes (the intelligence-sharing alliance that includes the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), dismissing them as irrelevant “cliques.”
In a phone call Friday, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi admonished U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for engaging in “psuedo-multilateralism based on the interests of small circles.” Xi instead champions the notion of “big country diplomacy”—that the U.S. and China are essentially the only two world powers that matter, and should sort global affairs between each other rather than entangling lesser powers.
There’s something to that. As Reuters points out, in 1979, when Deng Xiaoping began opening China to outside investment, the nation’s economy was smaller than that of Italy, the G7’s smallest member. Today it is a $15 trillion colossus, and home to some of the world’s leading technologies.
And yet entangling allies is a centerpiece of Biden’s foreign policy—and arguably the most significant difference between his approach to dealing with China and the ‘go it alone’ style of his predecessor, Donald Trump. As The Guardian‘s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour notes, Biden has marshaled allies large and small in service of a bigger campaign to push back against China on a wide array of issues including human rights, supply chains, support for Hong Kong and Taiwan, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and to press questions about the origins of the pandemic.
The early evidence suggests that campaign may be getting traction.
More Eastworld news below.
This edition of Eastworld was curated and produced by Eamon Barrett. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga survived a vote of no confidence submitted by a coalition of opposition parties on Tuesday. The shadow government has taken issue with the PM’s handling of the COVID crisis and the Olympics but had held off on submitting a vote of no confidence earlier after Suga threatened to respond with a snap election. Opposition leaders instead requested the government extend the current parliamentary session by three months, but the request was denied, prompting the opposition to go ahead and submit a vote of no confidence. Japan’s ruling party voted down the motion—the first vote of no confidence introduced to the lower house since 2019. The Mainichi
The Ghosn getaway
Opening statements from two Americans accused of aiding Carlos Ghosn's 2019 escape from Japan admitted involvement, suggesting the father and son duo won't fight the charges against them. The two Americans, Michael and Peter Taylor, are facing up to three years in prison for their role in the escape. The Taylors are accused of arranging for Ghosn, the former Nissan executive charged with corruption, to be smuggled out of Japan in a musical equipment box. The Guardian
Toshiba said four executives, including two board members, would resign on Sunday following allegations that the company had colluded with the government to block shareholders from exercising their rights. The allegations come from an independent report, commissioned by Toshiba’s largest shareholder, investigating whether a July 2020 board meeting had been managed fairly. The answer in the 147-page report is a categorical no. Bloomberg
France’s Framatome told the U.S. that the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province posed an “imminent radiological risk,” as the French company, which part-owns the power plant, had detected increased leakage of radioactive isotopes. China has denied there is any issue with the plant and the U.S. believes the situation is not at “crisis level.” Framatome informed Washington of the risk because the French company needed permission to share U.S. technology with its Chinese partner in order to resolve the issue. CNN
Former hip hop artist Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, a member of '90s group, The Fugees, reportedly lobbied the FBI to extradite a Chinese dissident to China, while also attempting to uncover information about the fugitive’s location and security detail. The accusation comes from a 2017 lawsuit brought against Michel and associate Jho Low—the fraudster who swindled billions of dollars out of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB. The indictment doesn’t name the fugitive, although experts believe it to be Guo Wengui, a billionaire friend of Steve Bannon. Bloomberg
MARKETS AND MOVERS
Didi — China ride-hailing leader Didi Chuxing filed for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange last week, seeking a valuation around $70 billion.
Shein — Fast-fashion retailer Shein has become the focus of several longform media reports recently, as the Chinese e-commerce site surpassed Amazon as the most downloaded shopping app in the U.S.
Carro — One of Southeast Asia’s largest marketplaces for used cars, Carro, raised $360 million in a round led by Softbank, securing the startup’s status as a unicorn company. Carro is reportedly planning for an IPO in the U.S. within the next two years.
Huawei — Huawei hopes to develop a full suite of autonomous vehicle technology by 2025, reports The Paper, citing the executive leading the project. Huawei has repeatedly denied it will manufacture cars itself. The telecom-equipment maker is focused on developing the technology driving AVs instead, as U.S. sanctions continue to squeeze the company’s traditional revenue streams.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are approaching fast, after being delayed for a year by the pandemic, and public opinion is warming up to the idea. According to a poll by public broadcaster NHK, 64% of survey respondents favor the Games going ahead on July 23, even as Tokyo remains in a state of emergency. The 64% support rate is a dramatic about turn from a May poll conducted by Asahi Shimbun Daily, which found over 80% of respondents felt the games should be cancelled or postponed. But corporate support for the Games is waning. Analysts at Tokyo Shoko Research report that 64% of surveyed companies are now opposed to the Games—up from 56% in February.
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