Protesters holding banners and placards are pictured near the Karuizawa station of shinkansen train in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, on April 16, 2023. The Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers gathered in the central Japanese resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, as people took part in demonstrations to protest against the bloc. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)
In the next few days, hotels and restaurants in Hiroshima, Japan, must be busy stocking as much champagne and caviar as possible, to cater some important guests who will come to this town for a yearly "family reunion."
This is a rather small "family" though, with only seven members -- the Group of Seven, or the G7, an exclusive club with lifetime membership for the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. The short but strong title is reminiscent of the past glory of these seven industrial countries. Indeed, almost 40 years back, their GDP accounted for nearly 70 percent of the world total. Their wealth and non-communist ideology gave the countries a sense of superiority, which lasts till this day, and a sense of responsibility, which fades as time goes by.
Like all the previous ones, Hiroshima is sure to see plenty of ceremonial events and grandiose banquets, alongside of which overflow enough of empty talks and aimless discussions. An anodyne communique will normally come out at the end of this annual show, judging other countries to the G7's own likes, with a few touches here and there to conceal some visible fracture in this group. But people will ask the same old question, will the G7 deliver anything that will help with the global governance?
Unlike the time when the G7 was founded in 1970s to restore the world economic order, this group began to incorporate more international issues like counter-terrorism, arms control, climate change and so on from the 1980s onward. Although discussion sprawled more meetings at various levels, apart from an ever-rising budget for summit preparation, the conferences seem to become more ritualistic than substantive, as they seldom put forward useful resolutions for urgent issues the world is facing.
People holding banners protest against the upcoming Group of Seven (G7) summit at the site of the atomic bombing near the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, May 14, 2023. Hundreds of Japanese citizens took to the streets in the Japanese city of Hiroshima over the weekend to protest against the upcoming Group of Seven (G7) summit. (Xinhua/Yang Guang)
On economy, the antiquated old money resorted to help from emerging economies to bail them out. Right after the fall of Lehman Brothers that signaled the 2008 global financial crisis, the G20 met in Washington and came up with a plan. Since then, the more representative grouping making up around 80 percent of the world GDP is considered as an alternative to the G7.
The seven-member club's response to COVID-19 particularly calls into the question of the G7's competence and seriousness to steer the world. At the height of the pandemic, G7 nations were estimated to have stockpiled 1 billion spare vaccine doses by the end of 2021. The 1 billion vaccine doses later committed by the G7 leaders for low and low- to middle-income countries over 2022 still fell far short of the 11 billion vaccine doses needed, said the World Health Organization and campaigners. And the few rich eventually agreed to waive vaccine patent after nearly two years of haggling. To contend with sharp economic contraction caused by COVID-19, the G7 governments responded with massive stimulus measures, which worsened inflation particularly in developing countries.
In climate change mitigation, people are witnessing more false promises of the G7. Back in 2009, the rich countries pledged to provide 100 billion U.S. dollars per year through 2025, a mere 0.2 percent of the club's annual GDP, for developing countries to tackle the existential problem facing all humanity. But they have been missing the deadline ever since, and the financial pledge itself is only a small fraction of what developing countries need for decarbonization and adaptation.
Examples abound that point to the disconnection between the G7's lofty ideals and the means it has adopted to achieve them. Fundamentally, the limitation comes from the internal fractures deriving from the hierarchy among the members.
Protesters holding placards are pictured near the Karuizawa station of shinkansen train in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, on April 16, 2023. The Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers gathered in the central Japanese resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, as people took part in demonstrations to protest against the bloc. (Xinhua/Zhang Xiaoyu)
The G7 summit in 2017 failed to reach consensus on climate response as former U.S. President Donald Trump arbitrarily withdrew from the Paris Agreement. When U.S. President Joe Biden, proclaimed at his first G7 summit that "America is back at the table" and the United States has "made some progress in re-establishing American credibility among our closest friends," it could only be interpreted as an euphemism for the U.S. revised dictatorship over other members.
At the summit in 2022, the G7 created the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), an overhaul of the United States' B3W initiative to alienate U.S. allies from cooperation with China in the field of infrastructure. But some European countries and Japan are leery of jeopardizing commercial ties with the second largest economy in the world and are aware that the PGII's resources are no match for China's devotion to the field over the years. A recent Bloomberg report even disclosed that the United States pressured Italy not to renew its Belt and Road cooperation document with China.
In a way politics always work, common enemies are identified to divert attention from internal problems. And scapegoats are always needed to hide their own incompetence. The Ukraine crisis creates a rare platform for Western politicians to speak in one voice -- against Russia; and the "China threat" narrative has been used as an excuse to interfere in China's internal affairs like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Apart from the arrogance cultivated from being self-entitled preachers for too long a time, the G7, headed by the United States, is more and more tending to use its framework to define "we" and "they," to seek difference rather than find consensus, and to spread an aroma of confrontation that will distort people's world view and clamor for a time of conflict.
Hiroshima, one of the few places that had stood at the very front line of the World War II battle field and gone through the process of how the Nazi group was destroyed and post-war international order was founded. It should have the best understanding that confrontation between West-made "blocks" will only lead the world to its doomsday.
If the G7, the unrepresentative, anachronistic and plainly insufficient club of the rich not fit for purpose really wants to leave a mark in history, it might as well save taxpayers' money for a granite tombstone that is engraved with "1975-2023." Otherwise, it will only end up as a speck of dust, eventually forgotten, in the tide of history.
The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, China Daily etc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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