When will China join the G7?

China and the EU: Disturbance on the New Silk Road


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I remember talking to then US Secretary of Commerce Robert Zoellick in Davos in early 2006. The neocons, including Zoellick, were at the height of their influence in the George W. Bush administration. Democracy seemed to be on the rise everywhere. The Taliban had been defeated in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein was overthrown in Iraq. The mullahs in Iran asked for talks, and Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya surrendered his secret nuclear weapons labs to the CIA. Zoellick even acknowledged the news of the victory of the Islamist Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections with the remark that the corrupt Fatah government had deserved the rebuff. Above all, however, Zoellick was interested in China.

In the year of the attack on the Twin Towers, Zoellick had succeeded in getting the People's Republic into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Five years later, he was still confident. China is going from a disruptive outsider to a stabilizing stakeholder - partner - of the rules-based world order. The economic rise of China is creating a bourgeoisie that is the only reliable basis for democratization; democratization will strengthen China's interest in international cooperation.

15 years later the world looks different. While the West is defeated in Afghanistan, China has advanced from a bearer of hope to an opponent of fear. "We want to deal much more intensively with the extent to which China is using its economic power to expand its geostrategic influence all over the world," said Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the meeting of the G7 foreign ministers in London.

Belief in "change through rapprochement"

For this purpose, the group of leading industrial nations, originally conceived by the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt as a kind of pragmatic-technocratic economic government, is to be converted. As Maas tweeted: "# G7 is a meeting of liberal democracies that want to stand up against authoritarian regimes in the world. We are united by values ​​such as democracy, freedom and human rights and we want to finally represent them together again in the world."

To this end, according to US President Joe Biden's wish, the G7 should involve nations such as Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa more closely and thus build an "alliance of democratic states" against China and Russia. Of course there is no lack of warnings from Germany of a "new Cold War". Admittedly, such warnings stem less from concerns about peace than from concerns about business. German exporters - above all the auto industry, which could hardly survive without the Chinese market - would like to believe in "change through rapprochement". And there was no lack of German approaches. When Angela Merkel travels to China with Emmanuel Macron this summer, it will be her 13th meeting with the communist leadership.

The results were, to put it euphemistically, meager. A genocide against the Muslim Uyghurs has been going on for years in the province of Xinjiang. In the South China Sea, China continues to expand its territorial waters with the help of artificial islands. Democratic Taiwan is repeatedly the target of Chinese cyberattacks and military provocations.

Against all agreements with the former colonial power Great Britain, China brutally abolished democracy in Hong Kong and made it clear that the Chinese Communist Party is not thinking of tolerating the formula "one country - two systems" in the long term. It wasn't just a slap in the face from the West and an announcement to Taiwan that the Communists consider part of China. It was also a warning from the Beijing leadership against the entrepreneurial class in the south of their own country - against the forces that Zoellick had relied on. According to the business magazine Forbes "Half a dozen billionaires and wealthy businessmen" have "disappeared" for a short or long period since the rise of party leader Xi Jinping; presumably as a punishment for criticizing the leadership in Beijing. Most recently, it was China's richest man, billionaire Jack Ma. The founder of Alibaba - "China's Amazon" - had accused the Beijing bureaucrats of stifling innovation.