China’s foreign ministry was rightly outraged by the G-7’s communique from last month’s summit in Hiroshima, Japan. A section titled “China” reiterated a number of the West’s anti-China cliches, suggesting Beijing was not committed to peace and equality in its global development goals.
It is thus ironic that, after reading the entire 19,000-plus-word communique, that I found that many of the G-7’s hopes and desires for the world appear to have been lifted directly from official documents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
For example, Article 1 of the G-7 communique states that it hopes to “strengthen our partnerships with African countries and support greater African representation in multilateral forums,” which is precisely a key goal of China’s foreign policy. Over the past few decades, Chinese foreign ministers have made a habit of making an African country their first destination for each new year.
Article 8 of the G-7 communique talks about “addressing potential risks to the stability, resilience, and integrity of the monetary and financial system,” which exactly matches one of the three major domestic development objectives proposed by China in 2017.
Article 10 states that “achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030, reducing poverty, responding to global challenges including the climate crisis, and addressing debt vulnerabilities in low and middle-income countries are urgent, interrelated, and mutually reinforcing.” This is a foundational concept of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan. The communique never mentions China’s extraordinary contributions to the United Nations’ 2030 goals, nor the vast amount of aid Beijing has provided to low and middle-income countries.
Article 14 of the communique goes on to “stress the importance of narrowing the infrastructure investment gap in low and middle income partner countries, including by delivering financing for quality infrastructure.” This is what China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been doing since 2013.
Over the past 10 years, China has signed cooperation agreements under the BRI with 151 countries, raising more than $700 billion for infrastructure and other cooperation projects. The G-7 communique, meanwhile, meekly reads, “We reaffirm our shared commitment to the G7 Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) and working together and aiming to mobilize up to $600 billion by 2027.”
I can only hope this better-late-than-never gesture doesn’t end as yet another broken promise and a pile of excuses.
Article 3 of the G-7 communique even pledges to “achieve a world that is human-centered.”
“Human-centered” is the key ethos found in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th National Congress of the CCP in 2017, and reiterated in the report of the 20th National Party Congress in 2022.
In many ways, then, the spirit of cooperation advocated in the G-7 communique matches the policy programs of the CCP. There’s no real benefit to debating whether the G-7 is copying the CCP, however. China welcomes countries wishing to emulate its development success. Over the past decade, many developing countries have followed the concepts embedded in China’s five-year plans. Some governments are learning how to implement the process by studying within China’s party school system. China’s party school is training qualified officials, who are learning much needed skills to form an efficient bureaucracy to better govern their country.
China is pleased that more countries are willing to study, absorb, and even copy China’s experience. From Beijing’s perspective, there is no reason to be unhappy that there are so many similarities between the G-7 communique and China’s propositions.
The focus of this column isn’t to argue about whether there can be a violation of intellectual property rights when it comes to a policy agenda. It’s to point out that when realist international competition is discarded, it’s obvious that the G-7 and China are striving to build a better world and satisfy people’s yearning for a better life.
When we look objectively at a number of development markers, we see that since the turn of the century, China has done far better than the G-7 in pursuing a better world and a better life for its people.
Chinese cities are far safer than those in the United States, France, Britain, and Italy. China has twice the length of high-speed railways than all of the G-7 countries combined. Chinese people spend 10 times as much as people in G-7 countries using electronic payments, and it’s possible China will soon become the world’s first cashless society. The growth of China’s digital economy is faster than any of the G-7 countries. This has led to lowering costs and increasing ultra-efficient express delivery, food delivery, and electronic ride hailing, enabling low- and middle-income earners to enjoy cheaper services in China.
When it comes to global engagement, Chinese infrastructure contractors are working on projects in more than 190 countries and regions around the world, accounting for about a quarter of the global infrastructure market, involving transportation, electricity, housing, communications, petrochemicals, environmental protection, and other fields. They are helping African countries build more than 10,000 kilometers of roads, more than 6,000 kilometers of railways, more than 80 large-scale power facilities, nearly 20 ports, numerous airports, and more than 80 percent of their communication infrastructure. These vital and pragmatic projects have significantly contributed to the growing prosperity and sustainable development of African countries.
China’s development and unequaled progress has also been achieved without going to war. Let’s not forget that Britain, France, and Italy brutally colonized the underdeveloped world in the 18th and 19th centuries, nor that Germany and Japan were guilty of murderous fascism in the 20th century. More recently, the United States has waged wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as launching military interventions in Latin America.
China is achieving its success in manner that is the antithesis of the dreadful historical practices of G-7 countries.
The history of the early 21st century will clearly show China is the winner in the unnecessary competition between China and the G-7 countries in making a better world. Perhaps the drafters of the G-7 communique were reflecting on this fact, and that is why so many of China’s long-held policies are found in this year’s document.
I agree with Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, who wrote, “The G7 must accept that it cannot run the world. American hegemony and the group’s economic dominance are now history.” As part of his argument, Wolf referenced the rise of the BRICS grouping – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – as evidence.
But the diminished role of the G-7 isn’t due to the rise of BRICS countries. It’s because the G-7 continues to cling to its own self-interest, and developing counties can clearly see the G-7 has long been playing with a stacked deck.
China is fine with the G-7 copying its policy provisions, but also wants to see it match China’s results. I am reminded of a Confucian saying from 2,200 years ago: “When you see the virtuous, think the same.” If the G-7 can really help create a better world, China will be happy to learn from the G-7, just as it did in the 1980s.
The future world will not center on realpolitik under the logic of realism. Whether it is the United States, other G-7 countries, or China, the key to winning the future is not to defeat the other, but to do better.
In this regard, China, the G-7, and BRICS countries have to work harder together.