From Huawei to Hong Kong: why China is likely to weigh heavily on G7 leaders’ minds

South China Morning Post 發布於 2019年08月24日04:08 • Stuart Lau stuart.lau@scmp.com
  • Democratic leaders may push for stronger line on the ongoing protests while Donald Trump will seek support for his action against the Chinese tech giant
  • Many key items on the agenda are likely to address Beijing’s growing economic clout and its political impact around the world
A woman with her family walks past police officers inside the restricted area ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz. Photo: AP

China will cast a long shadow over this weekend's G7 summit as the leaders of the world's most advanced economies gather in France for their annual meeting.

Although President Xi Jinping will not be present, a range of China-related issues " ranging from the trade war with the US to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong " are likely to feature on the agenda.

"China will feature in some ways in the G7's discussions of the most important topics, from trade to cybersecurity to the environment," said Tristen Naylor, a fellow in international relations at the London School of Economics.

Although Donald Trump has sent mixed signals about the situation in Hong Kong " earlier this week the US President warned that "another Tiananmen Square" would make it "very hard" to reach a trade deal with China " he has been reluctant to push for a coordinated response from America and its allies.

Analysts also believe that the other members of the group " Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and Japan " may club together to send out a stronger message about how China has handled the unrest in the former British colony.

China's President Xi Jinping has not been invited to the summit. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

European leaders are also bracing for disquiet in the French beach town of Biarritz this weekend, with Trump likely to fight on issues ranging from EU's trading relations with the US to the call to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

The president is likely to support new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's threat of a hard Brexit, but is also keen to lobby Westminster to ban Huawei as a security threat.

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have already told Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, to do so and Johnson is counting on American support as he doubles down on his threats to leave the EU without a deal on October 31.

His government, expected to soon face a vote of no confidence in parliament, has not yet made it clear whether to enforce his predecessor Theresa May's provisional agreement to let Huawei build the "noncore" part of Britain's 5G networks.

Germany, which has already been using Huawei facilities for part of its current 4G network, is also facing calls from the US to ban the company from the next generation 5G mobile network.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Elysee Palace on Thursday. Photo: AP

Another area of contention is Hong Kong. "The G7 was created and continued with the distinctive core mission of globally promoting open democracy and human rights so the demonstrations in Hong Kong and (China's) reaction strike at the very heart of its mission and identity," said John Kirton, director of the G7 Research Group.

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It remains to be seen whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau " both of whom have previously called on China to respect Hongkongers' rights " will repeat their appeal.

Kirton added it would be critical for the Commonwealth trio " Johnson, Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is visiting as a guest " to speak out on behalf of the protesters in Hong Kong.

"It is a central test of whether Boris Johnson can lead a global Britain rather than a protectionist, isolationist one," he said.

French military perform a demining sweep along the beach in Biarritz. Photo: AP

For Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the need to rebuild ties with China has tempered its tone in international forums, according to Jonathan Miller, a senior fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs.

But Miller noted that Abe was "the only leader at the G20 summit in June to reference real concern about the Hong Kong situation with Xi Jinping."

He said: "With the lack of US leadership on the issue, Japan will look to carefully fill the void while working with other G7 partners in Europe and Canada."

Professor David Welch, from the Balsillie school of international affairs of the University of Waterloo in Canada, argued that G7 should step up its role in East Asian security as China is helping fuel what he calls "the greatest threats to global peace and security today".

"As (President) Xi Jinping increases pressure on Taiwan to rejoin the fold " something he seems to regard as a legacy goal " Taiwan recoils, spurred in no small measure by Beijing's increasingly bold encroachment on Hong Kong's autonomy," Welch said, adding that G7 should "affirm a joint commitment to the right of the Taiwanese people to decide their own fate".

For now the chances of this appear slim, not least because French President Emmanuel Macron has already ruled out producing a joint communique at the end of the summit in an attempt to avoid a repetition of last year, when Trump left early because Trudeau had criticised his tariffs on Canadian and Mexican goods.

"We have to adapt formats. There will be no final communique, but coalitions, commitments and follow-ups," Macron said. "We must assume that, on one subject or another, a member of the club might not sign up."

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