The G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting has been taking place in London this week, starting from May 3rd. Since the inception of the meeting, China has been the focus, and the group stresses that East China, South China Sea, and the Taiwan problem are “redlines” that China should not cross. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also opined that China’s military and economic expansion is the most central geopolitical issue since the end of the Cold War. Additionally, in a joint Communique after the meeting, the group supported Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the WHO and the WHA, emphasized peace and security in the Strait, opposed unilateral change to the status quo and violations of international law by means of militarization, coercion, and intimation from China. The statement also recognized Taiwan’s contribution to curbing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before the beginning of the meeting, US Secretary of State Blinken remarked that this meeting is not set out to block China’s rise; instead, it calls for China to return to the rules-based international society as a responsible stakeholder. In the post-meeting Communique, Blinken also highlighted that the wealthiest democracies are responsible for fighting for democracy, freedom, and human rights.
In fact, the verbiage is just a stalling tactic: the United States and other democracies do not really believe in the feasibility of bringing China back to the rules-based order. From the Biden administration’s recent announcements and various legislations on strategic competition proposed in the Congress, the US is determined to compete with China.
Several trends are illustrative. Firstly, China’s goal of shaping a new international order based on its own military and economic prowess manifests in several ways. The first example is that China has stealthily inserted the concept of development into the definition of human rights. In this new concept, the pursuit of economic development could supersede the protection of human rights. Secondly, in response to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, China has recently issued a “Cost Guard Law” to allow its navy to use force against foreign vessels engaging in illegal activities in China’s maritime territory and airspace above, including, territorial sea, contiguous zones, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelves. The Duterte administration, which is often considered friendly to China, surprisingly took a strong stance on this issue. The Philippines conducted several military exercises in the South China Sea, and its foreign minister blasted China on Twitter as Chinese vessels repeatedly crossed into Philippine economic zones.
Thirdly, according to trade representatives of the EU, the agreement that would drastically increase EU-China trade dependency has recently been called off. This could be interpreted as the EU deciding to side with the US in response to China’s rise and does not forfeit its alliance with the US considering the vast market China has to offer. EU’s come-around has a lot to do with the fact that most EU states are NATO members, so it is important to rely on the alliance with the US to cope with potential security concerns in Crimea and Ukraine. Lastly, blatant human rights abuses by the Chinese government in Hong Kong and against Uighurs force the EU to reconsider the discrepancy in values—recklessly pushing forward economic relations with China will sabotage the EU’s long-time position on democracy and human rights.
As such, for the US, the priority is to reach a consensus with China on curbing global warming. However, in the recent global climate summit, China did not show a willingness to align with the US on this issue and ignore the agreement reached in the meeting. If China and the US could not work out a consensus on this issue, then the room for cooperation could be nonexistent in the current competition structure. In other words, If the US could not establish a certain degree of trust and cooperation on the issue it cares about the most at this point, then the failure will only propel the US to decouple with China economically or balance its military capabilities to test China’s resolve for establishing hegemony.
However, in the current climate of hypernationalism, China will have to continue its “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy” to censure or distort facts of unpersuaded countries to rally public support for the Communist Party. In fact, the audience of China’s strategies of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy and global propaganda is often the domestic public, not foreign citizens, to ensure the legality and stability of the regime.
Thus, the Communist party is walking a lonely road. If China distances itself from other democracies and decouples with their economies entirely, even if it would rely on its Belt and Road Initiative to develop the “internal circulation” and “external circulation,” the developing and least-developed states do not have enough capabilities to consume excessive products from China. If the economic ecosystem could not sustain, an economic meltdown could certainly be possible. Ironically, the source of legitimacy of the party, economic development, may very well become the straw that broke the regime’s back. In other words, China’s Wolf Warrior Diplomacy carries grave risky to the party itself.
The above discussion shows that the focus of the G7 is not to change the relations between China and other Western states but to come up with an encompassing alliance to counter China. This is why we would say that Blinken’s comment and the after-meeting joint Communique are simply a stalling tactic. If China continues to exercise its Wolf Warrior Diplomacy by threatening other states such as Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, and various EU countries, it would only propel other Western states to distance themselves from China. Is China ready for the New Cold War?
(Yao-Yuan Yeh (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Associate Professor of International Studies and Chair of the Department of International Studies and Modern Languages at the University of St. Thomas, Houston. Twitter: @yeh2sctw
Fang-Yu Chen (email@example.com) is Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Research Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, MOST, Taiwan. Twitter: @FangYu_80168
Austin Wang (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Twitter: @wearytolove
Charles K.S. Wu (email@example.com) is PhD candidate of Political Science at Purdue University. Twitter: @kuanshengtwn)
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