Politics Opinion

The G7, NATO and the demonising of China

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

The two meetings of the G7 and NATO have left no doubt as to the growing strength of a united front, both economically and militarily, that is being built to threaten, confront, contain and reduce China’s influence in the world, writes Dr William Briggs.

THE G7 AND NATO SUMMITS have made it abundantly clear that the global economic and military focus will remain on China. The demonisation of China has taken a serious step forward as U.S. President Joe Biden’s mantra-like statement that America is back begins to sound even more ominous.

The G7 statement saw a coming together of powerful states that pledged themselves to “the importance of maintaining a free and open Indo Pacific, which is inclusive and based on the rule of law”.

Photo opportunities are always important for such gatherings, but the decision to have President Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson posing on a Cornish beach with one of the UK’s new £3 billion (AU$5.6 billion) aircraft carriers, HMS Prince of Wales, and other warships in view behind them was not all that subtle. The UK’s other carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is the lead ship in a naval strike group, including a U.S. destroyer and Marines, which is heading towards the South China Sea where it will carry out military exercises with Australian participation.

It was a short journey from the Cornish coast to Brussels and the NATO meeting. Here, the American President stated the obvious, that the focus on China was now clearer than ever before. Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General, outlined what was described as a “pivot” to China on NATO’s part. The echo of former U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy that pushed the region into heightened tension is significant and designed to draw the ire of the Chinese. NATO, it seems must “address the challenges that the rise of China poses to our security”.

The NATO leaders were eager to warn of a military threat that China supposedly now presents and that this is a “systemic” challenge to security. If we can accept that NATO is still connected with North Atlantic security, then the Chinese “threat” must now be a global threat. They also speak of China’s military expansion as being “opaque”. The thing about being opaque is that it is difficult to see through and NATO is quite correct. With its fleet in Chinese waters, its army on Chinese soil, then the threat to Europe is hard to justify and is incredibly opaque.

China was also castigated for “co-operating” with Russia. China, it seems must remain non-aligned and alone, but what is NATO if not an actual military alliance?

Warming to his subject, Stoltenberg was quick to warn that China was “coming closer” to NATO, both militarily and technologically. It is true that China has been engaging in a military build-up, but the most recent figures show that more than half of all global military spending comes from the USA alone. The USA budget runs to $650 billion (AU$844.4 billion) as opposed to China’s $260 billion (AU$337.6 billion). It is a considerable amount of money, but just how China is coming close to the West when it is being outspent by a ratio of about 3:1 is interesting. However, facts remain incidental when engineering an enemy.

The NATO spokespeople had their lines well-rehearsed. In May, Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, was warning the Canadian Parliament that Canada and the United States are at risk of being overmatched by China’s military. Eyre ran the well-used line that China was imposing its will on its neighbours and that the much-vaunted rules-based international order is in peril. The U.S.-inspired and imposed “rules-based” order has, since the end of World War II, been responsible for innumerable forced regime changes, interference in the internal affairs of countries, wars, mass surveillance and coercion on a global scale.

The NATO summit focused most clearly on threats of global conflict and found, without evidence, that China is a distinct threat. The G7 meeting cast a slightly – but only slightly – wider net. It made much of combatting the Belt and Road Initiative which is an interesting proposition. The G7 sees this as a means of China exercising “soft power” across the world. So much of the world has welcomed Belt and Road Initiatives, but this is now part of the threat from China.

The G7 also joined the anti-World Health Organisation push in giving credence to the Wuhan laboratory conspiracy. It happily went along with the perceived threats to Taiwan, Hong Kong and to the persecution of Uyghurs.

China has reacted strongly and quickly to these attacks. There are daily threats, militarily and economically, that are being launched against them. The military threats are real and pose a danger to us all. It is hoped that China will not be provoked into military engagement. The economic threats are also real. The countries of the G7 and their economic and military allies are daily launching trade war policies against China. These threaten China’s stability and also the stability of the entire global economy, but this seems a risk that the U.S. is prepared to take for the sake of maintaining economic, political and military hegemony.

The world sits on a precipice. The enemy is an economy that is proving to be a better capitalist operator than that of the USA. The most powerful economies of the Western world and the most powerful militaries of the world are becoming more and more united in their desire to confront, contain and reduce China.

Biden’s first major international foray since becoming President, in Cornwall and then in Brussels, gave him the opportunity to show the world that “America is back”. It is well and truly back and, as a result, the world is a more dangerous place.

Dr William Briggs is a political economist. His special areas of interest lie in political theory and international political economy. His latest book, 'China, the USA and Capitalism’s Last Crusade' is due to be published by Zero Books in October.

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