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China may not be a member of the G7, but it’s dominating the agenda

China may not be a part of the Group of Seven, the informal club made up of the world’s largest and wealthiest democracies, but its presence will likely loom large over the grouping’s first face-to-face summit in almost two years.

Laying out his trip last week, Biden wrote in the Washington Post that “the United States must lead the world from a position of strength,” including on confronting the “harmful activities of the governments of China and Russia.”

In some areas, there are signs such a united front is already forming.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Biden and his British counterpart Boris Johnson vowed to support a further investigation into the origins of Covid-19, including in China.

Support from the UK and possibly other G7 members will add weight to Biden’s push for a reexamination on the origins of the virus, including new scrutiny on the lab leak theory. Beijing lashed out at Biden’s call last month, accusing Washington of “political manipulation to shift the blame.”
The summit is also reportedly expected to see the launch of a green alternative initially pushed by Biden to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with an aim to support sustainable development in developing countries.
Several guest countries have also been invited to join the summit, including Australia, which will use the occasion to seek support in its escalating trade disputes with China. On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for G7 nations to endorse reform of the World Trade Organization to address the growing use of “economic coercion.”
The emerging alliance is likely to further antagonize Beijing. On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry hit out at Biden’s plan to rally allies on China, accusing it of “fanning confrontation.”

“Ganging up, pursuing bloc politics and forming small cliques are unpopular and doomed to fail. We hope relevant countries will discard ideological bias and look at China in an objective and rational light,” said ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin at a news briefing.

But at the same time, there is also a growing view in China that the G7 is a remnant of the past, and its influence — along with that of its participating nations — is in decline. This opinion, which has been vehemently promoted by Chinese state media, has been bolstered by China’s apparent post-pandemic economic recovery.

Nor is the fact that it is the G7 reacting to China, rather than China reacting to the G7, lost on observers in Beijing.

“(The G7’s) influence and power are no longer worth looking forward to. The fundamental reason is that the world’s economic and political center of gravity has shifted eastward,” said an op-ed published Thursday in the state-run Global Times asserting China is now setting the global agenda.

And while the G7 nations may be shifting towards something approaching a united front in certain areas, it remains to be seen whether countries will be willing to risk damaging bilateral relations with Beijing.

Chinese observers cited by the Global Times appear confident that G7 countries’ “fundamental divergences” on how to deal with China will “hinder them from making any substantial moves.”

Indeed, as the world begins to recover from the pandemic, many Western countries remain reliant as ever on the Chinese market and investments.

Beijing, on the other hand, is not shying from leveraging that reliance. The day before the G7 summit kicked off, China passed a law to counter foreign sanctions, a symbolic gesture to Western nations that their counter measures — be it over the issues of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, trade or technology — will be met with strong retaliation.

Photo of the Day

“Eating the sun”: A partial solar eclipse is seen over Mount Miaofeng in Beijing on Thursday. In ancient Chinese folklore, a solar eclipse was believed to occur when a mythical celestial canine named “heavenly dog” attacked and devoured the sun.

Chinese ride-hailing firm will go public in New York as US-China tensions simmer

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi is going public in the United States.

The company — which offers ride hailing, taxi and carpooling services in China, and which also has services in Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere — said in public filings Thursday that it intends to list on either the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq. The filing did not disclose how much the company plans to raise in the IPO.

While Didi says it operates in 15 countries, more than 93% of its sales come from within China. It has for years been a dominant ride-hailing service in the country, boasting some 377 million annual active users in China, and 13 million active drivers.

Didi’s US listing is notable amid ongoing US-China tensions. A lot of major Chinese tech firms trade in New York, including Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo, but the environment has gotten a lot more volatile. Over the past couple of years, a flurry of Chinese companies trading on Wall Street have held secondary listings in Hong Kong so they can establish stronger roots closer to home, citing worsening regulatory hurdles.

Didi acknowledged the risks in its prospectus, writing that there have been “heightened tensions in international economic relations.” It mentioned US-China disputes on trade, Covid-19 and Hong Kong, among other issues.

“Such tensions between the United States and China, and any escalation thereof, may have a negative impact on the general, economic, political, and social conditions in China and, in turn, adversely impacting our business, financial condition, and results of operations,” the company said.

— From Jill Disis and Pamela Boykoff

Around Asia

  • Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with corruption by the country’s military junta, adding to a raft of legal cases against the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
  • At least nine people were killed when a five-story building undergoing demolition collapsed onto a bus in South Korea on Wednesday.
  • An Afghan ISIS affiliate has claimed responsibility for an attack on international de-mining charity, the Halo Trust, that left 10 people dead and 16 others wounded Tuesday in Afghanistan.
  • Asia’s drug cartels adapted quickly to the pandemic in 2020, flooding markets with synthetic narcotics worth tens of billions of dollars even as the global economy ground to a halt, according to a new United Nations report.

Uyghurs living in a ‘dystopian hellscape,’ says new Amnesty report

Rights group Amnesty International has gathered what it says is new evidence of the widespread internment and torture of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region of China, in one of the most detailed reports yet compiled into Beijing’s alleged human rights abuses.

Based on interviews with more than 50 people who had been detained in internment camps across the region, the 160-page report claims there is a “factual basis” to conclude the Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity.

Amnesty researchers accuse the Chinese government of imprisoning its citizens in violation of international law, as well as torture and persecution against the region’s Muslim majority Uyghur people.

Testimonies from former detainees included in the report allege beatings and harsh punishments for minor perceived infractions.

“The Chinese authorities have created a dystopian hellscape on a staggering scale in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, in a statement after the release of the report.

Callamard said Beijing’s alleged actions in Xinjiang should “shock the conscience of humanity.”

Notably, however, Amnesty stopped short of labeling Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang “genocide” — setting the organization apart from numerous Western governments, including the United States.

Beijing has repeatedly denied accusations it is committing crimes against humanity, saying its camps are “vocational training centers” designed to combat poverty and Islamic extremism in Xinjiang.

But in their report, Amnesty researchers claim the Chinese government’s real goal in Xinjiang is to erase the cultural and religious identity of the region’s minority groups, and instead “forcibly instil a secular, homogeneous Chinese nation and Communist Party ideals.”

“Not a single person (in my village) can pray anymore. It is because the government is against religion. They are against Muslims,” one former detainee told Amnesty for their report.

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