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Blinken and G-7 Allies Turn Their Focus to ‘Democratic Values’

LONDON — The Group of seven was created to assist coordinate financial coverage among the many world’s high industrial powers. In the 4 many years since, it has acted to fight vitality shortages, international poverty and monetary crises.

But as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with fellow Group of seven overseas ministers in London this week, a key merchandise on the agenda will probably be what Mr. Blinken referred to as, in remarks to the press on Monday, “defending democratic values and open societies.”

Implicitly, that protection is in opposition to China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. While the financial and public duties of recovering from the coronavirus stay paramount, Mr. Blinken can also be using the Group of seven — composed of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan — to coordinate with allies in an rising international competitors between democracy and the authoritarian visions of Moscow and Beijing.

One twist within the meeting this week is the presence of countries that aren’t formal Group of seven members: India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa. Also in attendance is Brunei, which at present chairs the Association of South East Asian Nations.

It isn’t any coincidence that these visitor nations are within the Indo-Pacific area, making them central to Western efforts to grapple with Beijing’s rising financial would possibly and territorial ambition. China was the topic of a 90-minute opening session on Tuesday morning, and the schedule concluded with a bunch dinner on the Indo-Pacific.

“The broader context for these meetings is China, and the authoritarian challenge that China presents to the democratic world,” mentioned Ash Jain, a senior fellow on the Atlantic Council.

Mr. Jain famous the best way the group is now emphasizing frequent values over shared financial pursuits. “The G-7 is being rebranded as a group of like-minded democracies, as opposed to a group of ‘highly industrialized nations.’ They’re changing the emphasis,” he mentioned.

Many of the nations represented on the meeting do large business with China and Russia, complicating efforts to align them in opposition to these nations. China’s sample of financial coercion was one particular matter of dialog on Tuesday, members mentioned.

But these efforts have been simplified by the departure of President Donald J. Trump, who repeatedly picked fights with Group of seven allies and confounded them with calls to restore Russia, which was expelled in 2014 from what was then the Group of 8 after its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Nor is it seemingly a coincidence that the expanded visitor checklist matches, with the additions of South Africa and Brunei, a bunch of 10 nations and the European Union, collectively short-handed because the “D-10” by proponents of organizing them in a brand new world physique. Those proponents embrace Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, the host of this week’s gathering and architect of its visitor checklist.

Mr. Johnson has additionally invited India, Australia and South Korea to ship their heads of state to this summer season’s Group of seven summit in Cornwall, citing his “ambition to work with a group of like-minded democracies to advance shared interests and tackle common challenges.”

President Biden has equally recommended that the world is grouping into competing camps, divided by the openness of their political programs. In his April 29 deal with to Congress, Mr. Biden mentioned that “America’s adversaries, the autocrats of the world, are betting” that the nation’s battered democracy can’t be restored.

As a candidate, Mr. Biden also committed to holding a “Summit for Democracy” throughout his first year in office, and officers say planning for such an occasion is underway. Asked in a Tuesday interview with The Financial Times which nations is perhaps invited to such a summit, Mr. Blinken didn’t answer instantly.

And Wednesday’s agenda for the gathering features a session on open societies, together with problems with media freedom and disinformation. Other classes over the 2 days embrace Syria, Russia and its neighbors Ukraine and Belarus, Myanmar, and Afghanistan.

Some Group of seven nations are involved concerning the creation of a brand new international physique that may contribute to a Cold War-style polarization alongside ideological traces.

In a joint information convention on Monday, Mr. Blinken and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, had been cautious not to recommend that they had been forming a brand new membership.

Asked whether or not a brand new “alliance of democracies” is perhaps rising, Mr. Raab mentioned he didn’t see issues in such “theological” phrases, however did see a rising want for “agile clusters of like-minded countries that share the same values and want to protect the multilateral system.”

Addressing the identical question, Mr. Blinken was cautious to insist that this week’s conferences didn’t quantity to plotting in opposition to Beijing.

“It is not our purpose to try to contain China, or to hold China down,” Mr. Blinken mentioned. “What we are trying to do is to uphold the international rules-based order that our countries have invested so much in over so many decades, to the benefit, I would argue, not just of our own citizens, but of people around the world — including, by the way, China.” (The line isn’t just for public consumption. U.S. diplomats have relayed the identical message privately, virtually verbatim, to overseas counterparts.)

But in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcast the night time earlier than, Mr. Blinken made clear how the United States views China’s rise.

“I think that over time, China believes that it can be and should be and will be the dominant country in the world,” Mr. Blinken mentioned. China is difficult the worldwide order, he mentioned, including that “we’re going to stand up and defend it.”

Jeremy Shapiro, a former State Department official within the Obama administration who’s now analysis director on the European Council on Foreign Relations, mentioned that informally increasing the Group of seven is way simpler than setting up a brand new physique.

“It is always a pain, from a governmental perspective, to invent a new forum, because you need to have an endless discussion about who’s in and who’s out, and how it works, and its relationship to the U.N.,” Mr. Shapiro mentioned.

He added that the Group of seven, whose mission had grown nebulous lately, could have acquired a brand new sense of goal because it tries to manage a post-Trump democratic world within the face of Chinese and Russian threats.

“You would be hard-pressed to look back the past five years or more since they kicked out Russia to name a single thing the G-7 has done of interest,” Mr. Shapiro mentioned. “It didn’t have much to do.”