China on Sunday pointedly cautioned Group of Seven leaders that the days when "small" groups of countries decided the fate of the world was long gone, hitting back at the world's richest democracies which have sought a unified position over Beijing.
“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said. “We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”
The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.
The G7, whose leaders are meeting in Cornwall in England, has been searching for a coherent response to the growing assertiveness of Chinese president Xi Jinping after China's spectacular economic and military rise over the past 40 years.
Leaders of the group – from the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Japan – want to use their gathering in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay to show the world that the richest democracies can offer an alternative to China's growing clout.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau led a Group of Seven discussion of China on Saturday and called on leaders to come up with a unified approach to the challenges posed by the People's Republic, a source said.
The G7 are planning to offer developing nations an infrastructure scheme that could rival Mr Xi's Belt and Road initiative, launched in 2013 by Mr Xi involving development, port, road, rail and digital schemes from Asia through Africa to Europe. More than 100 countries have signed up to schemes with China.
The G7 scheme would cover human rights, supply chains, support for Taiwan and demands to reveal more about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some G7 leaders, however, including Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, have urged US president Joe Biden not to push competition with China to the extent that it prevents co-operation on other vital issues such as the climate crisis.
The European Union is also pressing the US to back a legally binding code of conduct for the South China Sea that Beijing has been negotiating with regional powers.
Germany, often cautious about confronting China, has been reluctant to specify the monetary value of any infrastructure fund, and France has emphasised a reallocation of rich countries' special drawing rights, foreign exchange reserve assets maintained by the International Monetary Fund, towards poorest countries as a means of easing liquidity.
US officials said Mr Biden was pushing the other G7 leaders for “concrete action on forced labour” in China and to include criticism of Beijing in their final communique. Japan also said it was backing a mention of Taiwan in the final statement.
Beijing has repeatedly hit back against what it perceives as attempts by Western powers to contain China, and says many major powers are still gripped by an outdated imperial mindset after years of humiliating China. – Reuters, Guardian