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

LONDON — The Group of 7 was created to help coordinate economic policy among the world’s top industrial powers. In the four decades since, it has acted to combat energy shortages, global poverty and financial crises.

But as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with fellow Group of 7 foreign ministers in London this week, a key item on the agenda will be what Mr. Blinken called, in remarks to the press on Monday, “defending democratic values and open societies.”

Implicitly, that defense is against China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. While the economic and public tasks of recovering from the coronavirus remain paramount, Mr. Blinken is also employing the Group of 7 — composed of the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan — to coordinate with allies in an emerging global competition between democracy and the authoritarian visions of Moscow and Beijing.

One twist in the meeting this week is the presence of nations that are not formal Group of 7 members: India, South Korea, Australia and South Africa. Also in attendance is Brunei, the current chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

It is no coincidence that those guest nations are in the Indo-Pacific region, making them central to Western efforts to grapple with Beijing’s growing economic might and territorial ambition. China was the subject of a 90-minute opening session on Tuesday morning, and the schedule concluded with a group dinner on the Indo-Pacific.

Some Group of 7 nations are concerned about the creation of a new global body that might contribute to a Cold War-style polarization along ideological lines.

In a joint news conference on Monday, Mr. Blinken and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, were cautious not to suggest that they were forming a new club.

Asked whether a new “alliance of democracies” might be emerging, Mr. Raab said he did not see things in such “theological” terms, but did see a growing need for “agile clusters of like-minded countries that share the same values and want to protect the multilateral system.”

Addressing the same question, Mr. Blinken was careful to insist that this week’s meetings did not amount to plotting against Beijing.

“It is not our purpose to try to contain China, or to hold China down,” Mr. Blinken said. “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 is not just for public consumption. U.S. diplomats have relayed the same message privately, almost verbatim, to foreign counterparts.)

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