The G7 summit of Western powers in, of all places, Hiroshima, Japan last weekend was a war summit.
It marked a further step in the push by the United States to unite leading capitalist powers—not just G7 members Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, but also this time Brazil, India, South Korea, and Vietnam—against China.
The G7 issued what the Politico website called “tough messaging against Beijing”. It denounced China’s “economic coercion” and warned it against any attempt to reincorporate the US-backed island of Taiwan by force.
The charge of “economic coercion” is laughably hypocritical. China has used blocking market access and the like as a form of political pressure on, for example, Australia and South Korea. This tactic badly rebounded, pushing both states, despite their close economic links with China, towards the US and its system of alliances.
But what is the imposition of the neoliberal Washington Consensus on indebted Third World states through the US-dominated International Monetary Fund and World Bank but “economic coercion”? Is the sanctions weapon increasingly used by the US, not only against Russia, not “economic coercion”?
Lacking military power, the European Union specialises in “economic coercion”, which it has used in the past decade or so against Greece, Britain, and Switzerland. Nevertheless, the summit will probably be seen as a success for US president Joe Biden and the host, Japanese prime minister Yukio Kishida.
The conflict with China, says Christopher Willcox of Nomura bank, “is very good for Japan, the fourth-largest economy in the world, very deep investable markets, and world-class companies. It’s the obvious place where international investors, if they want to have exposure to Asia, will invest over the next five to ten years.”
The second reason this was a war summit was of course Ukraine. More than anything else the summit was an opportunity for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to grandstand. He arrived via Saudi Arabia, where he addressed a meeting of the Arab League.
Zelensky’s main aim in Hiroshima seems to have been to ambush Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, and president Lula da Silva of Brazil. Both governments have refused to back the US proxy war in Ukraine and Western economic sanctions against Russia. But Zelenskyy’s efforts to shame them into the pro-war camp seems to have been a flop. He didn’t even manage to meet Lula.
As for India, its decision to start importing Russian oil after the invasion in February 2022 has been critical in keeping Vladimir Putin’s regime afloat. The International Energy Agency reported Russian oil exports reached their highest level since the invasion. Last month, some 80 percent went to China and India. Russian oil sells below global price benchmarks.
Anyone who believes, during an energy crisis, Modi will give up cheap Russian oil because of a homily from Zelensky is kidding themselves. And Saudi Arabia has defied US pressure to join in sanctions against Russia, instead working closely with Moscow in the OPEC+ oil cartel.
There’s a more general point here. As the Financial Times newspaper admitted last week, “This is the hour of the Global South… Many non-Western nations have looked on at the West’s full-throttle support for Ukraine and seen hypocritical powers yet again prioritising their own interests and concerns over the big global issues such as health and climate change. They also sense two major opportunities—to play the US and China off against each other, and, as they see it, a long overdue rewriting of the post-1945 world order.”
The more powerful Southern states aren’t going to give up the advantages the war is giving them. The same weekend as the G7 met, Chinese president Xi Jinping pointedly held a summit with five Central Asian ex-Soviet republics in Xi’an, China. Thus, Beijing may be prepared to support Putin economically, but it’s honing in on his “near abroad” while he’s embattled on his Western frontier.
The G7 represents a shrinking portion of the world economy, and the rest are increasingly flexing their muscles.