In recent years, China’s aggressive use of economic power has become a growing concern for advanced democracies worldwide. President Joe Biden and leaders of other prominent nations gathered at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Hiroshima to address this issue collectively. They aimed to develop a comprehensive strategy to counter China’s attempts to intimidate businesses and nations for political gain.
China’s Use of Economic Power for Political Gain
China’s economic coercion involves leveraging its economic might to achieve political leverage. As the world’s second-largest economy, China’s influence has grown significantly, leading to concerns about its coercive tactics. These tactics often involve pressuring countries and companies to conform to Beijing’s political interests.
The Collective Strategy of Advanced Democracies
At the G7 summit, leaders dedicated considerable attention to countering China’s economic coercion. President Biden and his counterparts aimed to outline a common set of tools that each country could utilize to address the challenges they face. This collective strategy aimed to foster resilience against China’s tactics and protect the interests of G7 nations.
The G7 Communiqué and Its Significance
A 41-page communiqué released during the summit demonstrated a threshold level of unity among G7 members regarding China’s economic clout. While making overtures to China, the communiqué also emphasized the need to foster resilience against economic coercion. Furthermore, it announced the creation of a new initiative to enhance collective assessment, preparedness, deterrence, and response to such coercion.
China’s Response and International Consensus Challenges
China’s Foreign Ministry responded strongly, accusing the G7 of smearing and attacking China and interfering in its internal affairs. Reaching a consensus on China is a complex task, given the diverse trade and diplomatic relations each G7 country maintains with Beijing. Disagreements within the G7 over approaches to China, such as strategic autonomy, have added to the challenges of forming a unified front.
Identifying Instances of China’s Coercive Power
Identifying instances of China’s coercive use of economic power can be challenging. Coercion often occurs on a case-by-case basis, making it difficult to prove. Nevertheless, experts have documented numerous cases where China has abused its influence to advance its political interests, causing significant disruptions in international relations.
The Need for a Coordinated Strategy
The G7 recognized that countering China’s economic coercion requires more than ad hoc responses. A coordinated strategy, equipped with a wide range of tools, is essential for effectively responding to China’s tactics. China has shifted from targeting countries to coercing companies, necessitating a comprehensive and unified approach from the international community.
International Efforts to Counter Economic Coercion
The European Union (EU) has taken steps to combat economic coercion by implementing retaliatory actions against offending nations. For instance, import tariffs can be imposed on countries that resort to economic muscle to bend others to their will. Coordinated, unified, and collaborative action among advanced democracies is crucial to effectively push back against economic coercion.