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Taiwan’s security takes center stage at G7 Hiroshima Summit

Japanese academic Matsuda Yasuhiro believes G7 summit consolidates support for cross-strait relations

G7 leaders voice support for Taiwan. (CNA photo)

G7 leaders voice support for Taiwan. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The 49th G7 summit recently concluded on Sunday (May 21) with world leaders coming together for three days to discuss a variety of issues from regional security, climate change, trade agreements, and global fiscal responsibility.

During the meetings, security concerns regarding Taiwan and the larger South China Sea were repeatedly brought up, and even addressed by the G7 Leaders’ Communiqué. The communiqué specifically noted that leaders "strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion," and "reaffirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as indispensable to security and prosperity in the international community."

In more direct terms, G7 leaders reiterated their basic position on Taiwan, including adherence to a one-China policy and "a call for a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues."

To better understand the potential impact of the G7 summit on regional security, Central News Agency conducted an interview with Tokyo University Professor of International Politics Matsuda Yasuhiro. Matsuda said Taiwan’s security concerns were elevated during the recent G7 summit, as evidenced by the joint communique, which internationalizes the importance of cross-strait issues.

Matsuda said a U.S. National Security Strategy report last October noted the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as critical to regional and global security.

While G7 leaders have presented a united front regarding cross-strait relations, French President Emmanuel Macron diverged from the official G7 stance following a visit to China in April. He expressed his hope that Europe could be more than a "follower" of U.S. foreign policy and purposely avoid being drawn into conflicts.

Matsuda said French politicians typically behave in this manner and are naturally cautious about being drawn into a conflict due to tense China-U.S. relations. However, the emergence of the recent China-Russia axis has quickly changed French opinion, which is now cautious about disrupting the unity of Western countries.

Matsuda believes Macron should know that his previous remarks were a political gaffe, with controversial remarks about abandoning Taiwan drawing heavy criticism rather than highlighting the international consensus that has emerged around Taiwan’s security.

U.S. President Joe Biden said at a press conference on May 21, after the conclusion of the G7 Hiroshima Summit, that all countries reached a consensus on their attitude toward China, including no direct intention of decoupling from China. Biden added that many had agreed to “de-risk” their relations with China, including diversifying their supply chains to avoid excessive reliance on a single country.

Matsuda believes that the Biden administration is unlikely to soften or back down on its China policy. Such an action would potentially arouse a protest by the U.S. Congress. The Biden administration is maintaining existing sanctions against China, while at the same time, seeking dialogue with China.

Matsuda has also observed Japan-China relations, noting that no matter how hard Chinese diplomacy tries to improve Sino-Japanese relations, it cannot unseat or otherwise supersede the important nature of U.S.- Japan relations.

Matsuda said the situation is largely China’s fault as he makes the analogy that China is trying to make friends with one hand, while the other hand beats people. For this reason, China is having a very difficult time improving foreign relations.

He believes it is advantageous for Japan to align with the U.S. and other western allies when it comes to facing China. He believes Japan has nothing to benefit from confronting Beijing alone.

Matsuda also observed economic weakness in China this year, noting COVID restrictions hammered its economy. He believes China is finding it hard to revitalize the economy while, at the same time, improving relations with foreign countries who continue to criticize the arrest of opposition voices and journalists.

Strict social control is leading Matsuda to believe that foreign business people are now afraid of increasing investment in China. He also adds that Taiwanese business people are withdrawing their investment in China one after another.

Facing such circumstances, the Chinese economy is now encountering major challenges and must improve its relations with Japan, the U.S. and Europe. However, he believes that China will not back down on many principles, including the "Taiwan issue" and human rights abuses.

As a result, more countries feel that the Taiwan issue has become much more serious and they need to strengthen cooperation to formulate an adequate response. What is more worrying for Matsuda is that China has lost much of its flexibility with regard to these issues, and will find it difficult to emerge from this vicious cycle.