G-7 Versus China and Russia in the Struggle for Global Influence

11:47 18.05.2023 •

G-7 leaders will roll out plans for a “battle of offers” with Beijing and Moscow
Photo: Bloomberg

The tussle for global influence is about to intensify, as China, Russia, the US and its allies step up efforts to win over governments in a deepening competition for hearts and minds in strategic third countries, notes Bloomberg.

The advent of a multipolar world comprising rival factions, most clearly seen in attitudes to Russia’s war on Ukraine, will be on show in a series of high-profile summits in the coming months, starting with the annual Group of Seven meeting on May 19 in Japan. There, G-7 and European Union leaders are preparing to roll out plans to court a select group of nations in what they’re calling a global “battle of offers” with Beijing and Moscow, according to people familiar with the discussions and documents seen by Bloomberg News.

The strategy involves enhanced work with so-called middle ground countries, such as Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa and Kazakhstan. High-level engagements, better coordination between existing infrastructure projects, and bespoke action plans for each nation identified as a key partner are among the program’s objectives.

At the core of the reinvigorated G-7 effort is somewhat of a tilt away from a primarily values-driven approach to one based on more tangible offerings in areas such as trade and security, the people said.

But G-7 allies, all of whom have sanctioned Russia and broadly share their US colleague’s national security concerns over China, are far from the only offer in town. Even as President Joe Biden sits down with his fellow G-7 leaders in Hiroshima, President Xi Jinping will hold a China-Central Asia Summit over two days in the Chinese city of Xi’an.

In July, President Vladimir Putin hosts African leaders in his hometown of St. Petersburg, building on Moscow’s efforts to blame Western sanctions for energy-price inflation and grain shortages that have hit poorer African nations hard.

Then in August, leaders of the BRICS group comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will meet in Johannesburg, with expansion to include a potential 19 hopeful entrants and the feasibility of introducing a common currency on the agenda. Both topics are a boon to China, which first proposed adding to the club and favors an alternative to the US dollar in trade among BRICS nations.

Two government officials from separate middle-ground countries said that the world has dramatically changed in recent years and Western powers have lost the leverage they once had to pressure developing countries politically and economically. One official put it simply: Western powers need us more than the other way round.

“When President Biden at the beginning of his term spoke about his values approach, I think he had a lot of currency and was attracting a great deal of interest,” South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said in an interview last week before the US spat. “But I think the current situation in which they find themselves as a leading part of this conflict makes it more difficult to be convincing.”

“The international community is at a historic crossroads,” entering “an era in which cooperation and division are intricately intertwined,” said Noriyuki Shikata, Japan’s Cabinet secretary for public affairs. That makes the G7’s strategic cooperation on global issues with emerging countries and developing countries all the more important, he said.

“I think we spent about two-thirds of our time on issues of concern to the Global South,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said April 18 at a joint press conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the G-7 host, who himself undertook a trip to Africa this month.

The scale of the challenge still appears daunting given a prevailing sentiment that is mistrustful, even resentful, and at odds with G-7 thinking, concludes Bloomberg.

‘Sankei Shimbun’ from Japan stresses: “The G7 summit on May 19-21 is likely to discuss the growing influence of the BRICS as a counterweight to the West. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which are members of the bloc, are considering the possibility of creating their own common currency, and a number of states wishing to distance themselves from the US and Europe are applying to join the expanded BRICS.

The main purpose of the BRICS currency is to reduce dependence on the dollar in international trade.

In the past, this issue was discussed in the member countries of the organization. Brazilian President Lula da Silva voiced his support during his visit to China in April, asking "Why should we use the US dollar?"

Behind this problem is dissatisfaction with the fact that the increase in US interest rates and the geopolitical conflicts associated with the Russian military operation in Ukraine have led to a strengthening dollar and a depreciation of emerging market currencies. There is also considerable concern about the possible exclusion of such economies from the dollar settlement network as a result of US sanctions.

In addition, the issue of expanding the bloc is also being discussed. According to the Ambassador of South Africa to the BRICS, at the end of April, 19 countries made formal and informal requests to join the expanded BRICS format.

Saudi Arabia and Iran lead among candidate countries for membership, both of which have a negative view of Western values such as democracy. Argentina, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain and Indonesia are also reportedly positive towards the BRICS.

While Russia's special operation in Ukraine and the conflict between the US and China have deepened the rift in the international community, many emerging market and developing economies have refrained from being critical of Beijing and Moscow, with whom they have close ties in terms of resources and food supplies.”


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