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G-7 stresses unity on China following unease over Macron’s comments

Leading democracies downplayed their differences at a meeting in Japan after France’s president revealed concerns about getting dragged into a war over Taiwan

The Group of Seven foreign ministers' meeting in Karuizawa, Japan, on Monday. (Franck Robichon/Pool/EPA/AP)
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KARUIZAWA, Japan — The top diplomats from the Group of Seven major industrial democracies stressed the need to unite against China’s economic, military and cyber assertiveness, in a display of solidarity Tuesday after differences emerged recently over the fate of Taiwan.

“We recognize the importance of engaging candidly with and expressing our concerns directly to China,” said the communique from the G-7 meeting, representing the views of the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Britain, Canada, Japan and the European Union. “We reiterate our call for China to act as a responsible member of the international community.”

The calls for unity followed French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit to Beijing, after which he suggested that Europe needed to avoid getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the United States over Taiwan — a self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected the idea that the United States’ top allies were divided on the China challenge, which he has called the “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century.”

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“There is clear unanimity in the approach that we are taking with all of our G-7 partners,” Blinken told reporters at a news conference at the end of the meeting. “That is the expectation that any differences be dealt with peacefully and neither side take any unilateral action that would disrupt the status quo that preserves peace and stability that is clearly what every single one of our G-7 partners believes.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who hosted the gathering of ministers in the mountain resort town of Karuizawa, also stressed the unity of the meeting across a number of fronts, including concerns about China’s expanding nuclear arsenal.

Macron’s remarks to reporters after his meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping prompted transatlantic disquiet. “The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No,” he told reporters. “The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”

U.S. lawmakers, especially Republicans, reacted furiously, accusing Macron of underestimating the threat posed by China.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Select Committee on China, said Macron’s comments “were embarrassing, they were disgraceful … and very geopolitically naive.” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the remarks were disheartening because the Chinese Communist Party’s threat to Taiwan is “a growing danger to the global balance of power.”

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Senior U.S. officials acknowledge that concerns about China’s rise are felt differently in Europe than in the United States, where Democrats and Republicans have been unusually united in viewing Beijing as a threat that must be challenged aggressively.

Europeans are especially loath to become ensnared in a territorial conflict over Taiwan following Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has already diminished Europe’s defensive resources with no end in sight.

But the United States and Europe are united in their concern that China could begin sending lethal aid to Russia, which could change the trajectory of the war in Ukraine.

Foreign ministers from Japan and Germany, as well as high-ranking European Union officials, who have recently visited Beijing received specific commitments from China that it does not intend to provide weapons to Russia, said a senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic.

“It was an opportunity particularly for the Europeans to make absolutely clear to the Chinese that this is an existential security issue for Europe,” the official said. “Having had that face-to-face reassurance … they have the ability to hold China to those commitments,” the official added.

The G-7 communique criticized China for committing “human rights violations and abuses, including in Xinjiang and Tibet.” However, it also spelled out areas of cooperation.

“We acknowledge the need to work together with China on global challenges as well as areas of common interest, including on climate change, biodiversity, global health security, and gender equality,” the statement said.