Can the G7 really build back a better world?

Author: Yan Liang, Willamette University The G7 meeting and communique could signify success for US President Joe Biden in reclaiming diplomatic leadership on a surface level. Biden convinced both European and Asian allies to weave together an anti-China front and reinserted the United States into a global leadership position to ‘build back a better world’ […] The post Can the G7 really build back a better world? first appeared on East Asia Forum.

Can the G7 really build back a better world?

Author: Yan Liang, Willamette University

The and communique could signify success for US President Joe Biden in reclaiming diplomatic leadership on a surface level. Biden convinced both European and Asian allies to weave together an anti-China front and reinserted the United States into a global leadership position to ‘build back a better world’ (B3W). 

Yet Biden’s strategy poses some important questions. Can this anti-China front based on common values sustain itself? And will the signature B3W initiative, taking the form of a ‘green silk road, provide a viable alternative to China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI)? 

Biden has taken important steps to show that the United States is back and ready to lead. He emphasised that shared values — democracy and rules-based liberalism — are what unite the United States with its allies. He also underscored the common perceived threat: the rise of an increasingly assertive China. He instilled a sense of urgency that democratic countries must work together to counter autocratic power.

Yet it is still not clear what the United States is prepared to do to re-establish and upgrade the multilateral system. Biden seems to have retained some of the key practices established under the Trump administration’s platform of economic nationalism and protectionism. The United States still imposes tariffs on steel and aluminium, among other commodities, imported from ally countries. Biden is also turbocharging the ‘buy American’ campaign and his administration is focusing on bringing the supply chain ‘back home’. Biden is yet to signal any intention to appoint WTO appellate judges or re-join the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The global infrastructure plan is the crown jewel of the US-led B3W initiative. G7 countries pledged to offer financing for infrastructure in developing countries. The initiative purports to prove that democracies ‘’ — in supposed contrast to the BRI, which it alleges to be a vehicle for China’s self-interest that places recipient countries into debt traps. But there are critical questions about the B3W initiative, even at the current conceptional level.

First, the plan is projected to provide in finance by 2035. Yet it is unclear how Biden intends to garner bipartisan support at home when US domestic infrastructure spending was massively downsized.

Some have questioned affordability given , or whether the United States would recklessly ‘print dollars’ and ‘export inflation’. But these concerns may be unfounded. Given that many countries will struggle to economically , inflationary pressure is expected to remain tame. Once production fully resumes globally, inflationary pressure will subdue further, and a key issue then would be to sustain demand. And as a monetarily sovereign government, the Biden administration can pay for any spending denominated in the US dollar. 

The real dilemma is whether national leaders, Biden especially, can convince domestic constituents on the idea of sizeable spending abroad. In the current political climate, this might amount to an impossible mission. Other G7 countries are meanwhile self-imposing fiscal austerity to varying degrees.

Second, while Biden espouses ‘no strings attached’, it is hard to imagine the United States won’t demand changes if recipient countries are deemed to be violating western standards, given the emphasis on democratic values that coalesce the G7 and underpin the ‘better world’. The US track record also suggests that structural adjustments may be imposed as a conditionality of finance. Strong beliefs in the private sector and the dismissal of the efficacy of governments could also present tremendous challenges for the G7 to trust and work with public agencies in the developing world.

Third, the BRI has already launched worth roughly US$3.7 trillion in the developing world. Intended as an alternative to the BRI, the G7’s infrastructural plan is unlikely to collaborate and cooperate with these Chinese-initiated projects. This could lead to repetitive, window-dressing, uncoordinated and even disorderly efforts to build global infrastructure. Some may argue that the G7 plan could foster healthy competition with China to global benefit. But without appropriate collaboration and cooperation, competition can become inefficient and counterproductive.

G7 countries have the potential to marshal capital and expertise to undertake ambitious infrastructure projects. Japan, for example, has been contributing to infrastructure building in Southeast Asia. B3W does not have to be framed as an alternative countermeasure to China’s BRI. The two could be competitive in some areas and complementary in others. Japan and Italy, for instance, have been part of the BRI, and it makes more sense to synergise efforts rather than pitting one initiative against the other.

Global challenges require a concerted . A multilateral system requires countries to recognise differences, manage conflicts and work cooperatively toward common goals. 

Biden’s anti-China front is unlikely to effectively mobilise the cooperation that’s needed to cope with imminent global challenges, from the infrastructural deficit to climate change. The United States would be better placed to reclaim leadership if B3W were repositioned to lead the world toward a more sustainable future in a more inclusive way. 

Yan Liang is Professor and Chair of International Studies at Willamette University, Oregon.

The post Can the G7 really build back a better world? first appeared on East Asia Forum.
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Chinese President’s Visit to Tibet Sends a Message to India, Experts Say

Regional experts say Xi Jinping's visit to Tibet signals China's national power on its southern border with India, where the two countries have clashed.

Chinese President’s Visit to Tibet Sends a Message to India, Experts Say

The visit this week to Tibet by Chinese President Xi Jinping underscores China’s concerns over security on the border with its southern neighbor India, where military clashes between the two countries took place last year, experts told RFA on Friday.

Xi Jinping’s visit on Thursday and Friday to Lhasa, capital of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), was his first since becoming China’s president in 2013 and went unannounced ahead of time by the Chinese press.

 He had visited Tibet previously as vice president in 2011 when Chen Quanguo, now Communist Party chief in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), was party chief in Tibet.

Residents’ movements in the city were restricted and factories closed, with construction work halted and Lhasa’s iconic Potala Palace—winter residence of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama—also closed for the day, sources in the city told RFA in an exclusive report on July 21.

In a July 23 report, China’s Xinhua news service said that the Chinese president had met with officials in Lhasa to extend congratulations on the 70th anniversary of China’s “peaceful liberation” of Tibet.

The anniversary marks the signing in 1951 of the 17-Point Agreement, an agreement granting control of the country forced on Tibet by China, which had already invaded eastern regions of the country, under threat of further military action.

The Chinese president’s visit to Tibet may also have been intended to signal to India that Xi Jinping is prioritizing the issue of tensions along India’s border with China, regional experts based in India told RFA in interviews on Friday.

Writing on Friday, China’s Xinhua news service noted that Xi Jinping had flown into Kongpo (in Chinese, Nyingchi), in southern Tibet, on Wednesday and then traveled to Lhasa by train along an elevated railway being built to link Tibet with western China’s Sichuan province.

Xi Jinping’s travel by train had given the Chinese president a first-hand look at the progress of construction on what Beijing considers a key rail line, said retired Indian general Druv Katoch, a former director at New Delhi’s Center for Land and Warfare Studies.

“I think that is very significant, because what has really happened with the construction of these rail lines is that the distance to Lhasa from [Sichuan’s capital] Chengdu, which is the headquarters of the local military region, has decreased to just 13 hours,” Katoch said.

“This gives China the ability to move large numbers of troops in a very short time into the Tibet region in the event of hostilities,” he said.

“I think the president had really come to check on that, especially in view of the fact of the clashes which took place between India and China last year in eastern Ladakh,” Katoch said.

Thousands of Indian and Chinese troops faced off in June 2020 at three or four locations in Ladakh in the western Himalayas after Beijing’s forces intruded into Indian territory, with deaths reported by both sides in the fighting.

Rail line close to India

Also speaking to RFA, retired Indian Army colonel Vinayak Bhat agreed that Xi Jinping’s visit to Kongpo and travel to Lhasa by train was a significant development for India, with the rail line lying very near the Indian border.

“The distance between {India’s] Arunachal Pradesh and Nyingchi is only around 160 kilometers, and I feel he doesn’t need to visit these areas at the moment as there are border disputes between [the two countries],” Bhat said, adding, “He is surely sending a message to India.”

“Wait for India’s response to this,” he said.

Sana Hamshi, a visiting fellow at the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation, agreed on the significance of China’s construction of rail lines and other infrastructure in Tibet, especially near the politically sensitive and China-claimed Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

India must look closely at China’s military buildup in Tibet, “and the border is one of the most important areas of concern,” she said.

“Xi Jinping visited Nyingchi prefecture’s airport, which is very near to Arunachal Pradesh, and he wanted to examine the physical infrastructure and to make sure that everything is in place so that China actually has the upper hand with respect to Tibet,” Hamshi said.

“[However], China is also very insecure and vulnerable about its control, and about whatever is happening inside Tibet, and also because of the presence of Tibetans in exile, and about the support of other countries for Tibet," she said.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, after which Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following a failed 1959 uprising against 

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by RFA's Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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