The Group of Seven on Friday urged China to abstain from “threats, coercion, intimidation, or the use of force,” while the United States touted the countries’ increasingly aligned approach toward dealing with Beijing.
A mildly-worded communique, wrapping up two days of meetings by the foreign ministers of the world’s seven wealthiest democracies, reiterated the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
But it also expressed an aim for cooperation with China where possible to tackle global health and climate challenges.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking to reporters after the meeting in the western German town of Muenster, said G7 countries sought to coordinate responses to China’s increasingly assertive global posture, though the communique did not make a reference to a common goal.
“In our discussions here, we’re also clear eyed about the need to align our approach to the PRC (People’s Republic of China) in the face of growing coercion, and push back together against Beijing’s market-distorting policies and practices, which hurt workers and industries in all of our countries,” Blinken said.
The gathering coincided with a one-day visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Beijing to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the first such trip by a G7 leader to China since the Covid-19 pandemic.
There Scholz pressed Xi to prevail on Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine, saying Beijing had a responsibility as a major power to do so.
His visit had also fuelled concern that Germany would continue to prioritise economic relations with its largest trading partner over security considerations, and risk divisions among Western allies that have sought to adopt a tougher stance towards China in recent years.
But Blinken said Washington strongly supported the reasons Scholz had laid out for his trip.
“That includes, by the way, encouraging President Xi to press President Putin on never using a nuclear weapon of any kind,” Blinken said.
Ukraine’s Western allies have accused Russia of threatening to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Moscow denies doing so.
Blinken added that the convergence on China among G7 countries – including Germany – was “increasingly strong and increasingly clear.”
The G7 said in the communique that they remained “seriously concerned about the situation in and around the East and South China Seas” after China earlier this year staged war games near self-governed Taiwan.
Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
“We remind China of the need… to abstain from threats, coercion, intimidation, or the use of force,” the communique said. “We strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion.”
Moreover the G7 said they would continue to raise concerns with China on its reported human rights violations and abuses, including in Xinjiang and Tibet, and on the “continued erosion of Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and autonomy”.
A US State Department official told reporters earlier on condition of anonymity that China’s Communist Party Congress last month, where Xi cemented his grip on power, had increased G7 countries’ recognition of Xi’s domestic and global ambitions and the need for a coordinated response.
“That’s something that I think will be a focus of this group as we head into Japan’s presidency next year,” the official noted, referring to Japan taking over the G7’s rotating presidency from Germany at the start of next year.
Sino-Japanese relations have long been plagued by a dispute over a group of tiny uninhabited East China Sea islets, a legacy of Japan’s World War Two aggression and regional rivalry.
On Friday Japan’s Sankei newspaper reported that the Japanese and Chinese governments had started planning a meeting between Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for mid-November.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell cautioned earlier in the day that China should not be put in the same category as Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February.
“It is clear that China is… becoming much more assertive, much more on a self-reliant course,” Borrell told reporters.
“But for the time being, many member states have a strong economic relationship with China, and I don’t think we can put China and Russia on the same level.”
The G7 said in their statement that they aimed for “constructive cooperation with China, where possible and in our interest” on global issues such as health and climate change.
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