The Group of Seven Should Finally Be Shut Down


During the May 2023 Group of Seven (G7) summit, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, near where the meeting was held. Not doing so would have been an act of immense discourtesy. Despite many calls for an apology from the US for dropping an atomic bomb on a civilian population in 1945, US President Joe Biden has demurred. Instead, he wrote in the Peace Memorial guest book: ‘May the stories of this museum remind us all of our obligations to build a future of peace’.

Apologies, amplified by the tensions of our time, take on interesting sociological and political roles. An apology would suggest that the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were wrong and that the US did not end their war against Japan by taking the moral high ground. An apology would also contradict the US’s decision, backed fully by other Western powers over 70 years later, to maintain a military presence along the Asian coastline of the Pacific Ocean (a presence built on the back of the 1945 atomic bombings) and to use that military force to threaten China with weapons of mass destruction amassed in bases and ships close to China’s territorial waters. It is impossible to imagine a ‘future of peace’ if the US continues to maintain its aggressive military structure that runs from Japan to Australia, with the express intent of disciplining China.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was given the errand to warn China about its ‘economic coercion’ as he unveiled the G7 Coordination Platform on Economic Coercion to track Chinese commercial activities. ‘The platform will address the growing and pernicious use of coercive economic measures to interfere in the sovereign affairs of other states’, Sunak said. This bizarre language displayed neither self-awareness of the West’s long history of brutal colonialism nor an acknowledgement of neocolonial structures – including the permanent state of indebtedness enforced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – that are coercive by definition. Nonetheless, Sunak, Biden, and the others preened with self-righteous certainty that their moral standing remains intact and that they hold the right to attack China for its trade agreements. These leaders suggest that it is perfectly acceptable for the IMF – on behalf of the G7 states – to demand ‘conditionalities’ from debt-ridden countries while forbidding China from negotiating when it lends money.

Interestingly, the final statement from the G7 did not mention China by name, but merely echoed the concern about ‘economic coercion’. The phrase ‘all countries’ and not China, specifically, signals a lack of unity within the group. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, for instance, used her speech at the G7 to put the US on notice for its use of industrial subsidies: ‘We need to provide a clear, predictable business environment to our clean tech industries. The starting point is transparency among the G7 on how we support manufacturing’.

One complaint from Western governments and think tanks alike has been that Chinese development loans contain ‘no Paris Club’ clauses. The Paris Club is a body of official bilateral creditors that was set up in 1956 to provide financing to poor countries who have been vetted by IMF processes, stipulating that they must pledge to conduct a range of political and economic reforms in order to secure any funds. In recent years, the amount of loans given through the Paris Club has declined, although the body’s influence and the esteem its strict rules garner remain. Many Chinese loans – particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative – refuse to adopt Paris Club clauses, since, as Professor Huang Meibo and Niu Dongfang argue, it would sneak IMF-Paris Club conditionalities into loan agreements. ‘All countries’, they write, ‘should respect the right of other countries to make their own choices, instead of taking the rules of the Paris Club as universal norms that must be observed by all’. The allegation of ‘economic coercion’ does not hold if the evidence points to Chinese lenders refusing to impose Paris Club clauses.

G7 leaders stand before the cameras pretending to be world representatives whose views are the views of all of humanity. Remarkably, G7 countries only contain 10 per cent of the world’s population while their combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is merely 27 per cent of global GDP. These are demographically and increasingly economically marginalised states that want to use their authority, partly derived from their military power, to control the world order. Such a small section of the human population should not be allowed to speak for all of us, since their experiences and interests are neither universal nor can they be trusted to set aside their own parochial goals in favour of humanity’s needs.

Indeed, the agenda of the G7 was plainly laid out at its origin, first as the Library Group in March 1973 and then at the first G7 summit in France in November 1975. The Library Group was created by US Treasury Secretary George Schultz, who brought together finance ministers from France (Valéry Giscard d’Estaing), West Germany (Helmut Schmidt), and the UK (Anthony Barber) to hold private consultations among the Atlantic allies. At the Château de Rambouillet in 1975, the G7 met in the context of the ‘oil weapon’ wielded by the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1973 and the passage of the New International Economic Order (NIEO) in the United Nations in 1974. Schmidt, who was appointed German chancellor a year after the Library Group’s formation, reflected on these developments: ‘It is desirable to explicitly state, for public opinion, that the present world recession is not a particularly favourable occasion to work out a new economic order along the lines of certain UN documents’. Schmidt wanted to end ‘international dirigisme’ and states’ ability to exercise their economic sovereignty.

The NIEO had to be stopped in its tracks, Schmidt said, because to leave decisions about the world economy ‘to officials somewhere in Africa or some Asian capital is not a good idea’. Rather than allow African and Asian leaders a say in important global matters, UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson suggested that it would be better for serious decisions to be made by ‘the sort of people sitting around this table’.

The private attitudes displayed by Schmidt and Wilson continue to this day, despite dramatic changes in the world order. In the first decade of the 2000s, the US – which had begun to see itself as an unrivalled world power – overreached militarily in its War on Terror and economically with its unregulated banking system. The war on Iraq (2003) and the credit crunch (2007) threatened the vitality of the US-managed world order. During the darkest days of the credit crisis, G8 states, which then included Russia, asked surplus-holding countries of the Global South (particularly, China, India, and Indonesia) to come to their aid. In January 2008, at a meeting in New Delhi (India), French President Nicolas Sarkozy told business leaders, ‘At the G8 summit, eight countries meet for two and a half days and on the third day invite five developing nations – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa – for discussions over lunch. This is [an] injustice to [the] 2.5 billion inhabitants of these nations. Why this third-grade treatment to them? I want that the next G8 summit be converted into a G13 summit’.

There was talk during this period of weakness in the West that the G7 would be shut down and that the G20, which held its first summit in 2008 in Washington, D.C., would become its successor. Sarkozy’s statements in Delhi made headlines, but not policy. In a more private – and truthful – assessment in October 2010, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard told US Ambassador to France Craig R. Stapleton, ‘We need a vehicle where we can find solutions for these challenges [the growth of China and India] together – so when these monsters arrive in 10 years, we will be able to deal with them’.

The ‘monsters’ are now at the gate, and the US has assembled its available economic, diplomatic, and military arsenals, including the G7, to suffocate them. The G7 is an undemocratic body that uses its historical power to impose its narrow interests on a world that is in the grip of a range of more pressing dilemmas. It is time to shut down the G7, or at least prevent it from enforcing its will on the international order.

In his radio address on 9 August 1945, US President Harry Truman said: ‘The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians’. In reality, Hiroshima was not a ‘military base’: it was what US Secretary of War Henry Stimson called a ‘virgin target’, a place that had escaped the US firebombing of Japan so that it could be a worthwhile testing ground for the atomic bomb. In his diary, Stimson recorded a conversation with Truman in June about the reasoning behind targeting this city. When he told Truman that he was ‘a little fearful that before we could get ready the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon [the atomic bomb] would not have a fair background to show its strength’, the president ‘laughed and said he understood’.

Two-year-old Sadako Sasaki was one of 350,000 people living in Hiroshima at the time of the bombings. She died ten years later from cancers associated with radiation exposure from the bomb. The Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet was moved by her story and wrote a poem against war and confrontation. Hikmet’s words should be a warning even now to Biden for laughing at the possibility of renewed military conflict against China:

I come and stand at every door
But none can hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead for I am dead.

I’m only seven though I died
In Hiroshima long ago
I’m seven now as I was then
When children die they do not grow.

My hair was scorched by swirling flame
My eyes grew dim my eyes grew blind
Death came and turned my bones to dust
And that was scattered by the wind.

I need no fruit I need no rice
I need no sweets nor even bread
I ask for nothing for myself
For I am dead for I am dead.

All that I need is that for peace
You fight today you fight today
So that the children of this world
Can live and grow and laugh and play.

G7 summit escalates new Cold War


The leaders of the most powerful capitalist empires gathered in Japan over the weekend to hold a summit of the “G7” powers – the United States, UK, France, Canada, Italy, Japan, and Germany. While their deliberations, held in Hiroshima, touched on a wide range of issues, there was one common goal present throughout the meeting – intensify the new Cold War atmosphere in world politics by recklessly deepening key conflicts. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was the de facto guest of honor at the summit. Arriving on Saturday, Zelenskyy held a flurry of meetings and events to solidify his standing among the main sponsors of the proxy war that pits his country against Russia. In his main speech, Zelenskyy reminded his patrons how they are all effectively co-combatants in the war, “For almost 15 months of full-scale war, we’ve made hundreds of security decisions together. These include the formation of coalitions of defense support, sanctions against the aggressor, protection of markets, including the energy and food markets, and protection of Ukraine’s financial stability.” 

The day before Zelenskyy landed in Hiroshima, the Biden administration unveiled a massive escalation of the war. The Pentagon will now seek to facilitate the transfer of highly sought-after F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, and the training of Ukrainian pilots to fly them. For months, even the U.S. government resisted aggressive lobbying by Ukraine to secure these jets. But as the eve of the G7 summit opened, this was reversed in a move that takes the world even further down the path towards catastrophe. 

Biden met with Zelenskyy and pledged, “Together with the entire G7, we have Ukraine’s back and I promise we’re not going anywhere.” An official statement from the summit promised that “Our support for Ukraine will not waver.” Host of the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, assured that the G7 will provide “strong backing for Ukraine from every possible dimension.”

While imperialist diplomacy played out in the comfort of the summit, dramatic events were unfolding on the battlefield in Ukraine. The town of Bakhmut was captured by the Russian military after months of intense fighting that became the focal point of the war. But at the same time, the Ukrainian armed forces were conducting final preparations for a highly-anticipated counter-offensive that could see the greatest risk yet of the war escalating into a direct clash between NATO and Russia.  

Hostility to China a central theme

China, which along with Russia is the principal adversary in the U.S. government’s new Cold War, was also a top target at the summit. The official declaration pledged that the G7 would, “address the challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy” and “counter malign practices.” It also expressed that the leaders were, “seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas” and echoed separatist talking points on Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. These issues are related to the territorial integrity of China, something that is of the utmost importance to the country’s government and could be the basis for a direct military clash. 

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to this hostility by noting, “the G7 used issues concerning China to smear and attack China and brazenly interfere in China’s internal affairs … gone are the days when a handful of Western countries can just willfully meddle in other countries’ internal affairs and manipulate global affairs. We urge G7 members to catch up with the trend of the times.”

Along the sidelines of the G7 meeting, leaders of the “Indo-Pacific Quad” countries also held a meeting. The Quad was established in 2017 as part of the U.S. strategy to encircle and contain China, and is made up of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. While it stopped short of naming China, the joint statement issued by the Quad countries all but accused the country of “destabilizing or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion.” Of course, it is actually the U.S. government that for generations has based its entire foreign policy on unilateral action employing force or coercion. 

China was especially alarmed at the rhetoric coming out of the G7 summit because of several recent geopolitical developments. Last month, the right wing president of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol traveled to the White House to meet with Joe Biden and issue the “Washington Declaration.” This aimed to solidify South Korea’s subordinate role to the U.S. war machine by deepening military coordination, including the regular deployment of U.S. submarine-based nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula. Then, less than two weeks later, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida went to South Korea for talks aimed at bringing the two countries closer together for the sake of mutual confrontation with China and North Korea. Last December, Kishida’s government announced the country would embark on its largest military build-up since World War Two. 

It is a true irony that this gathering took place in Hiroshima – the place where the U.S. military criminally carried out the first attack in history using nuclear arms. While the leaders visited the city’s Peace Park dedicated to the bomb’s victims and spouted hollow rhetoric about disarmament, their actions at the summit brought the world closer to the brink of a catastrophic global confrontation where this type of weapon could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it. 

Source: The Liberation

Indian diplomacy in overstretch


The Foreign Secretary’s special briefing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Asia-Pacific tour (May 19-24) dovetailed skilfully into three summit meetings, and brings to mind an institution of the Middle Ages known as the “wandering minstrels”. 

Wealthy people used to employ minstrels to entertain them in their homes. These wandering minstrels told stories, recited poems, sang ballads and played musical instruments. Employing simple rhymes, their ballads told stories that were of interest and at times even dealt with the problems of the poor.

PM’s first halt is Hiroshima, Japan, where he is a special invitee to a  gathering of the club of rich nations, G7, which was born as a result of mounting economic problems, in particular the oil shock and the collapse of the Bretton Woods in the mid-1970s.

According to the Foreign Secretary, G7’s outreach with India would be “structured around three formal sessions,” relating to food,  health, development, gender equality, climate, energy, environment and a ‘peaceful, stable and prosperous world’.“

Japan, as G7 presidency, has also invited Australia, Brazil, Comoros, Cook Islands, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, and Vietnam as  “special invitees”. It’s a motley crowd that makes little sense as movers and shakers of the world order. 

But the western media is awash with reports that the West’s preoccupations with China and Russia will be the leitmotif of the G7 summit. Therefore, the last-minute decision by Ukraine President Vladimir Zelensky to attend the G7 in person electrified the air in Hiroshima, giving the goings on there in the weekend the look of a foreplay leading to the making of an endgame in the Ukraine war, if and when that happens.

In such a scenario, of course, there are vital roles that could be assigned by the US to Brazil and India — both BRICS members — and to South Korea which has actually lived through a “frozen conflict.” But all that is in the realms of speculations for the present, as it will be a far-fetched assumption that a frozen conflict “somewhere in between an active war and a chilled standoff” will suit Russia,  although that “could be a politically palatable long-term result for the United States and other countries backing Ukraine” to gingerly exit the war in Eurasia — to borrow from an important article in Politico two days ago titled Ukraine could join ranks of ‘frozen’ conflicts, U.S. officials sayeven as Biden was emplaning for Hiroshima.

Be that as it may, India’s enthusiasm was on two counts — first, the opportunity for Modi to have extended interactions with President Biden in different locales spread over an entire week —  at Hiroshima, Papua New Guinea and Sydney. Second, the QUAD was to hold a summit in Sydney, Australia, where India saw the  opportunity to showcase itself as a “counterweight” to China. 

However, fate intervened. The slow-motion implosion of the US economy bothers Biden and he has cut short his Asia tour by reducing it to a weekend affair so as to hurry back to Washington by Sunday and resume work in the Oval Office to shore up the “steady progress” so far achieved in the gruelling debt ceiling talks between the administration and the lawmakers. 

However, scuppering the planned QUAD Summit in Sydney next week would convey a wrong signal, too. Therefore, diplomats found a way to squeeze in a substitute QUAD photo-op in Hiroshima itself. After all, as Foreign Secretary pointed out, QUAD is a moveable feast — “Look, the structure and nature of QUAD is such that … (although) the QUAD Leaders’ Meeting not taking placing in Sydney and now taking place in Hiroshima is a change in venue, there has not been any change in the specific aspects of cooperation in QUAD.” 

But Chinese commentators are already mocking that the cancellation of the Sydney summit is “an omen of QUAD’s fate.” And the Guardian newspaper wrote that the cancellation of the QUAD  summit in Sydney will spawn narratives that “the US is racked by increasingly severe domestic upheaval and is an unreliable partner, quick to leave allies high and dry.”

The Guardian lamented that the US should worry about its crumbling credibility. Besides, the cancellation of the event in Sydney is a blow to the Australian hosts, in particular. It seems Australian officials had spent months extensively planning the huge logistical and security operation of a Biden visit to Sydney and last October’s budget actually set aside $23million for the costs of hosting the QUAD summit. 

The bottom line is: Aren’t these one too many summits? To what purpose, really? To contain China? The G7 itself has become a relic of the past. In fact, what we are witnessing could be the last rites of the old order, as Donald Trump’s theatre looms across the Pacific. Also, putting on a show of common endeavour at the G7 is becoming increasingly difficult. There is an end-of-epoch feel to the  G7 summit this year.

Again, take the third meeting of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC Summit), which Modi is co-chairing on 22 May in Papua New Guinea. Modi launched this forum during his “historic visit” to Fiji in November 2014 when he hosted the first FIPIC Summit. The second FIPIC Summit followed within ten months in Jaipur, India, in August 2015. Now, almost a decade later, FIPIC is coming back to life after a deep slumber. 

Yet, statistics show that India’s trade with all those 14 PIC countries combined — Cook Islands, Fiji, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu — is hovering around $250 million! 

Simply put, while Chinese diplomacy is proactive in the strategically important Western Pacific, the US seems to be encouraging India to mark the lamp posts there. But from an Indian perspective, this is classic imperial overstretch, and is highly avoidable. This was what Pakistan used to do, copying Indian diplomacy anywhere and everywhere to “catch up” — until it got exhausted and gave up. 

Biden’s original intention was to hop over to Papua New Guinea with a specific agenda — the signing of a maritime security pact and a defence pact with Papua New Guinea that would give American troops access to the Pacific nation’s ports and airports. Biden’s trip to the Pacific Islands was expected to be a power play in Washington’s face-off with China. For Biden personally, it would also have been a sentimental journey as his uncle died in Papua New Guinea in the Second World War.

But India carries no remains of the day in Western Pacific. Isn’t its hands full, as it is, with the complex issues of Indian Ocean maritime security, which it is barely able to cope with?

Look at Biden. He coolly decided that with a challenging re-election bid ahead in 2024, the domestic debt ceiling crisis talks in DC ought to be his top priority, and instructed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to stand in for him at the summit with Pacific leaders in Port Moresby on Monday. Indian diplomacy has something to learn here about the art of prioritising objectives instead of indulging in shadow boxing and exhausting itself.