China sees cracks in Biden's alliance

Editorial | Mary Ma 15 Jun 2021

The Joe Biden administration's policy toward China is pretty clear by now.

The US president's European trip has been strategically laid out, kicking off with the G7 summit that concluded on Sunday with a joint statement focused on China.

Biden then went to Brussels for another summit with Nato leaders yesterday.

His first overseas trip since the US presidential election will wrap up with a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva tomorrow.

The layout of the strategy is carefully tiered.

The G7 summit was about politics and was aimed at strengthening the political will of alliance members. This was arguably the most complex issue of all.

Three non-G7 countries - India, South Korea and Australia - also participated in the summit.

The Nato summit was about military alliances and took place as a multinational strike group led by British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was sailing across the globe to East Asia via the Indian Ocean and South and East China seas.

The meeting was held to reconfirm each member's commitment to the military alliance.

Neither Biden nor Putin voiced any high expectations for their summit in Geneva. But it would be considered a success for Biden if Putin were prepared to give the hint that Moscow would sit on the fence while watching the Sino-US fight.

Moscow is wary of Washington, but it is not in its interest to have a mighty neighbor south of its border - bearing in mind that its port on the east coast used to be part of China.

How much progress did Biden make at the G7 gathering?

There was some. First, unlike past communiques that normally avoided naming a country, this one cited China several times in relation to the pandemic, human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, as well as the East and South China seas. It also touched on the sensitive issues of forced labor and Taiwan, but stopped short of making specific reference to Beijing.

Although progress has been made to tighten the anti-Beijing loop, it is clear that France and Germany were hesitant. If France relies on the Chinese market for its luxury apparel, Germany depends on the nation for sales growth of its Volkswagen cars.

Beijing knows Biden's alliance is not 100 percent solid. So while South Korean President Moon Jae In was at the G7 meeting in Cornwall, Beijing's diplomats were busy on the line speaking to their counterparts in Seoul.

Beijing policymakers are aware that they have friends in Europe who simply want to keep doing business with China.

For example, Hungary has been useful in repeatedly blocking a plan by the European Union to issue a critical statement on Hong Kong.

It is only to be expected that Beijing will continue to wield its influence in Europe to split the Biden alliance.

The G7 decision to rival Xi's Belt and Road Initiative with an alternative B3W Initiative is bound to be easier said than done.

Who is going to bear the gigantic cost when ex-US president Donald Trump had to fight with Germany to get the latter to increase its military budget?



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