Ever since Biden’s ascendance to the White House as the US President, the rhetoric against China and Russia has not only become more belligerent, but the Biden administration, using the ‘positive image’ of Joe Biden, has also started to enlist the support of as many countries against Russia and China as possible. When Biden’s defense and foreign secretaries recently toured Asia, their message to the erstwhile US allies in the region was about a return to a policy of aggressive confrontation, leaving no to minimum space for China to ‘bully’ smaller countries into its orbit. This policy’s most recent manifestation was the latest summit of G7 foreign ministers held in London, where the Western diplomats met and exchanged ideas, casting the Kremlin as malicious and Beijing as a bully, who need to be challenged, with their political and economic influence rolled back to a position where they would not be able to effectively challenge the US-led international system.
The US is selling this dream to Europe by telling the European leaders that the latter’s superior position in the hierarchy of global political system can be maintained only when the world operates in a US-led system, and that their interests will suffer if China and Russia succeed in re-shaping the system to their exclusive advantage. For Europe, Joe Biden’s presence in the White House has ensured a US return to ‘internationalism’, shunning Donald Trump’s ‘America First.’
Accordingly, most western leaders are already subscribing Biden’s international political rhetoric. G7 foreign ministers, in a 12,400-word communique, said Russia was/is trying to undermine democracies and threatening Ukraine while China was guilty of human rights abuses along with using its economic clout to bully others into submission. Attacking Russia, the communique noted:
“We are deeply concerned that the negative pattern of Russia’s irresponsible and destabilising behaviour continues. This includes the large build-up of Russian military forces on Ukraine’s borders and in illegally-annexed Crimea, its malign activities aimed at undermining other countries’ democratic systems, its malicious cyber activity, and use of disinformation. We express full solidarity with all partners affected by actions connected to Russian intelligence services against their interests and security, which will continue to be met with the staunchest resolve.”
Targeting China, the communique noted:
“… we call on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We continue to be deeply concerned about human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang and in Tibet, especially the targeting of Uyghurs, members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, and the existence of a large-scale network of “political re-education” camps, and reports of forced labour systems and forced sterilisation.”
G7, which has a combined GDP bigger than China and Russia, resolved to “work collectively to foster global economic resilience in the face of arbitrary, coercive economic policies and practices.”
More than a mere verbal support for contentious issues like Ukraine and Xinjiang, the West’s hype around these issues has deep geo-political undercurrents. Xinjiang continues to make headlines in the West not simply because of the so-called “genocide”, but because of the fact that Xinjiang is a key hub of China’s Belt & Road Initiative. If the US/G7 really cared about human sufferings, it would most certainly have taken a different approach to one of the worst humanitarian crisis the world is witnessing in Yemen, where the Saudi led coalition has been using the US and the UK supplied bombs and missiles to raze cities to the ground. Therefore, using “genocide” and “restrictions” as some main propaganda points, the West is only creating a controversy around Xinjiang, and by doing so, it is making the whole BRI controversial. In this Western calculation, if China’s BRI fails as a result of this campaign, it would ensure Western supremacy in the ‘hierarchy’ of states defining global political system since the end of the Second World War.
As far as Ukraine is concerned, it remains a key point for NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe and further into Central Asia at some point in future. A recent commentary in Atlantic Council, a think-tank closely allied with NATO and a number of other foreign funders, noted that Ukraine “Over the course of the past seven years … has emerged as the eastern frontier of the Western world. Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have given their lives to prevent the defeat of democracy and the advance of Russian authoritarianism.”
With Ukraine as the “eastern frontier”, but yet to become a full NATO member, the US has already started to flood it with its weapons and other defense equipment. This is apart from how NATO itself is taking steps to add fuel to the fire. It was pretty evident during the recently NATO-Ukraine summit in which the alliance, besides criticising Russia, confirmed that it is already supporting “wide-ranging reforms that are making Ukraine more resilient and help advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” adding further that they “will further enhance our cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia on Black Sea security, and we are working to make full use of Ukraine’s status as an Enhanced Opportunity Partner.”
Therefore, by targeting Ukraine and Xinjiang, the West (G7) has only rammed up geo-political flashpoints that it would continue to relay on to infuse unity – which was gravely threatened by Trump’s nationalist positions – in the alliance.
While the Biden administration is not looking to de-couple with China or even permanently throw its relations with Russia in a cold freezer, there is still no gainsaying that America’s return to an interventionist mode of foreign policy is more about maintaining US dominant position in global system than really defeat Russia and China. The US keeps playing up the ‘threat’ from these countries to justify its leadership of the West.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.