German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, along with EU leaders have reportedly blocked efforts by the G7 to issue a joint statement condemning alleged forced slave labour in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
EU officials have reportedly expressed the opinion that the West should focus on corporation with China instead of adversarial elements. Meanwhile, the United States along with Japan, Canada, the UK, and France supported the effort to call out the alleged slave labour. France was the only EU member-state in the block that did not side with the EU on the issue. EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen (herself a former German cabinet member) and Charles Michel (of Belgium) led the effort to oppose the measure.
The final version of the G7 communiqué read: “we are concerned about the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains, including state-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities, including in the agricultural, solar, and garment sectors,” with no mention of China in particular.
An unnamed official reportedly claimed that there was “a little bit of differentiation of opinion, not on whether the threat is there but on how strong, from an action perspective different G7 members are willing to take this.”
This disagreement reiterates the growing disunity within the West on how to handle the Chinese threat. It is clear that economic factors (such as the belt and road initiative and overall trade with China) are effecting how individual countries are reacting to the rise of Chinese geopolitical strength. Industrial giants in Germany were the first western companies to take bets on the Chinese economy in the 1980s, and have made a significant profit ever since. China currently stands as Germany’s largest importer. In 2019, Italy was also one of the first European nations to join the belt and road initiative.
As always, this story reiterates how the condemnation of human rights (in this case, slave labour in Xinjiang) is almost always tied to some geopolitical interest. It is a rare sight when any nation fights for genuine human rights simply out of the goodness of its leaders’ hearts.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.