Today’s world is nothing like the one that was formed following World War II. A totally different universe all together. Life today moves faster than speed of light, state borders become increasing blurred as technology transformed the globe into one connected entity and national sovereignty, ultra-sacrosanct for decades, is being steadily weakened by Big Tech, the likes of Google, Amazon, and Facebook.
Ironically the only people who seem to be oblivious to this fact are the same ones who accelerated those changes -- the G7, the group of industrial nations that was formed in 1973 by post-war ideological leaders, such as Richard Nixon, former president of the United States, Valery Giscard d’Estaing and George Pompidou of France and Helmut Schmidt of Germany.
Under the flag of capitalism
These politicians ushered in a new type of international relations setting at the same time the global stage for the historic invasion of globalisation under the flag of capitalism.
The group was meant to counter socialism, spearheaded by the Communist Soviet Union, and spread the free-market values in the rest of the world. But the world moved on, leaving G7 nations struggling with the existential question: is the group relevant in today’s world?
Today, the Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is no more. Emerging nations, such as China, South Korea, India, South Africa, with their newly acquired wealth, are competing against the G7 in almost every economic and political sphere.
A country like the UAE for example proved more effective in helping other less fortunate nations during the coronavirus pandemic than some of the G7 nations.
At the same time, the G7 has been increasingly fractured. Some of the member states no longer share the same ideals. The coronavirus crisis dealt a severe blow to some of the G7 economies which made them incapable of contributing to the global response.
The group also failed the ultimate test a couple of years ago: the Donald Trump test. the former US President, who unlike most G7 countries, shunned multilateralism and propagated ‘America First’ policy, imposing steel and aluminium tariffs on many European countries, including members of the G7.
In the previous two G7 summits, Trump even refused to sign the final communiques. In the 2018 meeting in Charlevoix, Canada, the US decision to impose those tariffs and Trump insistence on reinstating Russia to the G7 (Russia was kicked out of the group because of the Ukraine crisis) led to the failure of the summit.
Trump also publicly blasted the host Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau for his criticism of the US tariffs. A year later, in Biarritz, France, Trump repeated his call for reinstating Russia, while the other G7 members sought stricter sanctions on Moscow. The atmosphere was described as “tense” at the summit. Again, Trump refused to sign the final statement.
In the run-up to the current summit, which opened on Friday at Carbis Bay, Cornwall on the English coast, we were told the meeting will be different, with US President Joe Biden planning to restore his country’s ‘leadership’ on the global stage and reinvigorate the G7 as an effective tool of multilateral action.
However, Biden, a supposedly international affairs veteran, knows that premise is not enough to make the G7 relevant again. Thus, his administration came up with an adversary concept that could reunite the group just as the Soviet Union and the socialist camp was the common enemy that united the G7 in the early days. The new ‘adversary’ is China.
The role of China
Some of the G7 member may very well subscribe to the new Biden creed. But for the rest of the world, China may actually be the good guy, not the villain. Let us look at what China did in the past 12 months for example when the world struggled to deal with the pandemic.
As most G7 members, including the US, were pressed hard to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak within their borders and fought hard to ensure sufficient vaccines for their citizens, China offered $5 billion in aid to developing nations to help them contain the pandemic’s economic impact as well as free vaccines for 80 countries.
On the other hand, up until a week ago, the US refused to donate any amount of vaccine citing domestic needs. Other G7 nations have yet to send a single doze to poor nations. Talk about leadership!
Politically, China has also been active in mediating and assisting in different parts of the world. Just last week, while the G7 prepared to hold their summit, Beijing offered to host intra-Afghan talks to break the current deadlock. China also offered to host Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, following the recent Israeli war on Gaza.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was quoted at the same time, while visiting the occupied territories, that the Biden administration has no plans to initiate a new round of peace talks.
With China’s advance technology, which most of the world depends on today, active diplomacy and powerful economy, it is unlikely that Biden will find buyers for his ‘China the villain’ theory, even within the circle of allies in the G7.
If the G7 wants to regain its relevance in today’s world, it should present the world with a new project that can help address today’s problems - climate change, economic recession and diplomatic remedies to long-running conflicts such as those in the Middle East.
Counting on outdated formula, good vs evil, will not cut it in this age. It will only make the G7 meeting another ceremonial photo-op event, like the ones we are used to at the Arab League.