Every year, seven leaders – who call themselves the G7 (The Group of Seven) – come together to address global issues. G7 consists of the UK, the USA, Japan, Canada, France, Germany and Italy (plus the EU, unofficially, since they share similar goals). G7 used to be known as G8, back when it used to include Russia, but Russia had to withdraw after their annexation of Crimea back in 2014. They meet to tackle global challenges and to stand together against common enemies. Originally, the G7 formed in the 1970s and represented countries with the largest economies. This year, the Summit lasted from 19th – 21st May 2023 and took place in Hiroshima, Japan.
The ultimate intention behind this summit is for the G7 to agree to a Communiqué, an official statement agreed on by the G7 outlining their goals and expressing their commitments. Despite not being legally binding, it does carry a significant international political influence.
Although powerful, the G7 represents only about 10% of the human population. Therefore, it is criticised for narrow global representation and has gathered some opposition. This year, anti-G7 protestors violently clashed with the police in Hiroshima. The Japanese were likely upset, believing the summit was organised to cater to US elite interests. Some might see the Summit being held in Hiroshima as an insult due to the History between USA and Japan.
The very first atomic bomb landed in Hiroshima during World War 2. The USA dropped the A-bomb on 6th August 1945. During this point in time, it was clear Japan had already lost; however, they refused to surrender unconditionally to the USA. The USA decided to live-test their nuclear weapon for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they wanted to force Japan to surrender completely– the alternative would have been to invade the Japanese land, which would have cost many more casualties for both the USA and the Japanese troops. Secondly, it sent a message to Stalin demonstrating that the USA had successfully developed a new weapon and was not scared of, what was back then, the USSR. An “unconditional surrender” would mean Japan’s leaders being trialled for their war crimes, having to give up the territories they had conquered etc. – a very unappealing position for Japan to accept. In short, the bombings led to an immediate end to the War but killed many Japanese people in the process.
Hiroshima used to be a heavy military city – a communication centre, a major shipping and storage point, and an assembly area for Japanese troops. This is likely why it was targeted. This is also why it was symbolically significant for Japan`s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, to choose Hiroshima as the host city for the G7 Summit.
G7 initially met up in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. This location is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it displays the horrendous effects of the atomic bomb being dropped. Japan`s Prime Minister chose this venue presumably to emphasise his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Many Hibakusha (names given to the survivors of the Hiroshima attack) believe this summit to be a chance to persuade the US, UK and France to disarm.
The US, UK and France have nuclear weapons, but so do Russia, North Korea and China. Putin has refused to confirm that he will not be using nuclear weapons against Ukraine; North Korea keeps on developing their nuclear weapons and threatening South Korea and the USA; further, China is putting on an increasingly intimidating front and engaging in economic coercion to boycott countries which appose its plans and actions. Amid heightened tensions centring on these three countries, it is unlikely G7 will agree to disarm. This is emphasised by Germany pointing out that disarmament is only important to Japan and not of high priority to other countries.
Ukraine’s President, Zelensky, attended the summit in person, which definitely brought the leaders’ attention back to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He advocated for tightening Russian sanctions and introducing new sanctions. It was vital for him to raise this point seeing as sanctions are usually the most effective when enforced by a group of countries – an example would be restricting involvement in Russia’s diamond trade. He also aimed to increase international support, especially from countries maintaining a neutral stance, such as India and Brazil, who have declined to condemn Russia’s invasion. Moreover, Zelensky preached greater military support from G7 countries to fight against the new common enemy.
China was discussed as well. Significantly, the West’s economy and supply chain depends on China, hence why G7 are so cautious not to alienate such a powerful trading partner. Additionally, China was accused of ‘economic coercion’. Essentially, economic coercion involves using economic means to achieve political goals. China’s intimidating behaviour toward Taiwan clearly illustrates this; Beijing’s threats against Taiwan are constantly escalating. Taiwan is an important trading route; therefore, the global economy would be impacted if Taiwan were to be invaded, leading to wider conflict. China’s growing trade with Russia also undermines the impact of the sanctions imposed on Russia by the G7.
Russia and China boycotted many countries. A ‘boycott’ occurs when a country stops trading with other countries because they disagree with their geopolitical decisions, such as Russia’s refusal to trade gas supplies with Europe – they weaponised Europe`s energy supplies to protest these countries supporting Ukraine. Semiconductors are another clear example of this weaponisation. Semiconductors are largely made in Taiwan and are an essential tech item – they are used in smartphones and cars. Shortages in Semiconductors would lead to economic disruption. G7 bypassed this issue through collective action, with the UK and Japan agreeing to work together in a new semiconductor partnership. G7 heavily stressed ‘collective action’. Another example is forming a new council to deal with this economic boycott. In fact, we already have The World Trade Organization in charge of regulating this, but it has proven not to be effective over the last year.
The discussions were predominantly centred around the Russo-Ukrainian War and how the G7 will continue to support Ukraine. Chinese aggression was discussed with reference to economic coercion and the need to take collective action, despite affirming that they did not wish to alienate China. The leaders also expressed their commitment to the disarmament of nuclear weapons to foster a safer world. Next year the G7 leaders will come together once again to address the emerging global issues.