China is nothing less than a foreign policy fix in Washington. So it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Biden may want in return for healing the transatlantic wounds of the Trump era. He said he had “walked away” from the G7 summit in the UK convinced the group recognized that Beijing was part of a growing threat to global democracy. The summit agreed to establish an alternative to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Reflecting American goals, he called on China to respect human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province, and to allow a full investigation into the origins of Covid-19. He also called for calm in the South and East China Seas.
China was also on everyone’s lips at the ensuing NATO summit and made its first appearance in the alliance’s final joint declaration. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who heads an alliance supposedly concerned with the security of the Atlantic rather than the Pacific, warned on Monday that China is “getting closer to us” in its military prowess. And he stressed that the communist giant does not share the Western values that NATO was created to defend.
But Europeans are also still reluctant to be dragged into a confrontation by the United States. U.S. officials said Italy and Germany were uncomfortable with potential press release language that China might see as provocative. Underlining “the balance”, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that “China is our rival in many areas but also our partner in many aspects”. Emmanuel Macron said the G7 wanted to work with Beijing on climate, trade, development and other issues despite the disagreements. “I will be very clear: the G7 is not a club hostile to China“, declared the French president.
Unsurprisingly, none of this went well in Beijing, where officials suggest that widening divisions over how Europeans and Americans will view China’s footprint could be a key focus of the Beijing diplomacy. As for not provoking China, this ship has sailed. The Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom accused the G7 statement of “deliberately defaming” Beijing and denouncing the “sinister intentions of a few countries like the United States”.