Biden says he wants to “face” China. Is Trudeau ready to go with him?
The leaders of the G7 countries are meeting this weekend for discussions that will certainly be dominated by only three topics: COVID-19, climate change and China. But this is the last topic that could end up dominating the discussion.
The summit may not produce a moment like Winston Churchill’s famous “Iron Curtain” speech, now widely regarded as the start of the Cold War. But there has been a chorus of Western establishment voices on both sides of the Atlantic warning of the threat posed by Chinese-style authoritarianism. and describing this moment as an opportunity not to be missed to unite against it.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has proposed an expanded alliance of democratic nations. He already has a working title for the new alliance: the D-10. The “D” is for democracy and the 10 are the traditional nations of the Group of Seven plus three governments attending the Cornish summit as guests: India, Australia and South Korea.
These three countries have more in common than elective democracy, of course. They all have serious issues with China as well – which is why they are alleged allies in a world that appears to be dividing, once again, into warring blocs.
Having already successfully hosted a climate summit in April, US President Joe Biden has more or less cleared the decks to deal with the other two – who, in one respect, cross.
“Bringing together the democracies of the world”
Biden explained his goals at the top in a editorial released on weekends. One of the missions of this new alliance, he writes, would be to “deal with the harmful activities of the Chinese and Russian governments”.
“The West” looks somewhat ragged and frayed after four years of President Donald Trump. Often dismissive of international commitments, friendly to dictators and aggressive to allies, Trump has caused a well-documented fall in European and global confidence in the ability of the United States to do the right thing.
Brexit and an uneven response to the pandemic have strained ties in Europe as well.
But there is one issue that unites European and North American governments of all political stripes, and which also benefits from rare consensus among parties on the polarized American political scene.
That problem is mistrust of the Chinese Communist Party, an organization with more card-holding members than most G7 countries.
CCP Loses Friends Abroad
“China’s increasingly aggressive diplomacy, rhetoric and policies” are leading other countries to unite against it, Johns Hopkins University’s Ho-Fung Hung said, citing a series of actions against it. different countries.
“Penalizing Australia for coming too close to the United States, and also sanctioning European diplomats and academics for their concerns about the Uyghurs. It actually makes this kind of alliance building to take on China easier for the United States. United”
Countries like Germany that once worried about the car sales they risked losing in China now feel aggrieved by China’s aggressive diplomatic measures.
“It creates a kind of backlash that makes it very difficult politically in Europe right now too, for anyone who wants to say nice things about China, or say that Europe should improve its relations with China,” Hung said. .
India, too, is turning from China’s “enemy” into more of an adversary, he said – especially as Chinese troops appear to have ambushed and clubbed to death a group of Indian soldiers stationed at the remote Himalayan border of the two countries.
“China’s influence in Sri Lanka and Pakistan worries India, which is surrounded by the friends of China,” Hung said. “India is also home to the Tibetan government-in-exile which China is very unhappy with.”
India also feels overwhelmed by a country that equals it in population but has a GDP and defense budget more than four times the size. “So India will certainly be very happy to be part of this coalition” against China, although it is less interested in quarrels with Russia, Hung said.
An alliance of outcasts
If a “D-10” alliance emerges, with the countries meeting this week in England at its center, a large number of countries would likely associate with it more or less closely – including many of China’s nervous neighbors such as Taiwan, the Philippines and Malaysia.
China would likely have a much weaker alliance behind it, Hung said.
China’s main potential allies in a bipolar world, said Hung, “are the countries that have no choice but to rely on China, its market and its financial system. The countries that are sanctioned by the American and Western coalition like Russia and Iran and of course North Korea too They need the financial, market and resource strength of China to mitigate the negative impact of Western sanctions.
“They have to stay with China. But these are not the kind of friends who share core values or even geopolitical interests.”
Hung said the Western alliance, while stretched and tested, runs much deeper. “It has a long history as a democratic alliance that has gone through the two world wars and the cold war together.”
Canada’s own quarrel
The dispute between Canada and China concerns the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. For Trudeau, it will be important to ensure that a solution to the plight of the two Canadians is part of any collective demand presented to China.
He also knows that the Canadian public is in a bad mood when it comes to the Chinese government. He has seen all opposition parties – and even some of his own Liberal MPs – vote for parliamentary motions demanding his government toughen up with Beijing.
Despite all the partisan resentment in the United States, the two sides reunited as Biden prepared to leave for England for pass an important bill through the Senate which aims to support American technology companies against their Chinese rivals.
Such a consensus does not exist in Canada. As Trudeau packed his bags for the summit, the official opposition released a statement: “There is only one choice to secure Canada’s future and stand up to the Chinese Communist regime, and that is the Conservatives. from Canada.
The demands go beyond the issue of Canadian detainees. There are also the 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong and the multi-party pressure for Canada to act to protect Uyghurs from the persecution that Parliament voted to call “genocide.” (Trudeau and his cabinet were mostly absent from Parliament that day.)
“I want Canada to take a coordinated approach with our G7 allies, whether it is on sanctions or creating a cohesive strategy towards China,” said Cherie Wong of Alliance Canada Hong Kong. “What China has historically done is isolate a country and intimidate it. So we need to unite with our allies.”
Canada faces a choice
Former Canadian diplomat and Chinese scholar Charles Burton said Canada faces a choice.
“There is a desire that there be more concerted action by an alliance of nations that are affected by China’s behavior in the absence of any effective UN capacity to respond, because China is a permanent member of the Security Council and therefore able to veto any important element, “he said.
“Is Canada prepared to defend Australians who are subject to hostage diplomacy when we expect Australians to defend our Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor?” Are we ready to engage in programming that displeases the Chinese government in concert with our allies?
“Or do we want to leave that to other powers and hope that if Canada remains relatively neutral, we will be able to protect our market position in China?”
Burton wants a more confrontational Canadian approach. He said his expectations are low.
Perhaps in anticipation of the summit, China has sent friendly signals to the world in recent days.
Gordon Houlden, another former Chinese diplomat and scholar who heads the China Institute at the University of Alberta, said the sudden speech of friendship and respect could be intended to prevent the emergence of an anti- Stronger China.
“This is a sophisticated great power. They are well aware of a diplomatic calendar and a calendar of global leadership and the G7 falls into that category,” he said. “To be sure. I don’t think the timing is accidental.”
A new cold war?
Houlden said he sees the elements of a new cold – or even a hot – war. “We must fear that we are in a situation similar to that of 1910 in terms of rivalry between great powers.”
He said the world may have learned the wrong lesson from the Cold War, which ended peacefully with the victory of the West.
“Even at the end of the Cold War, there were very risky times and incidents, and there was always a possibility of miscalculation on either side, leading to some sort of nuclear disaster,” he said. he declared.
Houlden quotes a Chinese diplomat who said: “We have no choice but to coexist, or we will co-destroy. “
“So the idea of, well, we go into Cold War mode and we bump into it until China implodes….
“If that happens, fine, we know which side we’re going to be on and we’ll do our part. But I still hope we can dodge that outcome… Assuming the new cold war will be the same as the last is one. dangerous hypothesis. ”