United Kingdom

G7 leaders join forces to tackle China's growing hold over poorer countries

Leaders of the G7 are to combine forces to combat the growing global might of China by ploughing hundreds of millions of pounds into countries at risk of being sucked into Beijing's sphere of influence.

The UK-hosted summit in Cornwall agreed to calls by US President Joe Biden to band together to compete with China, which since 2013 has been using its 'Belt and Road Initiative' to finance big projects in poor countries – making them politically and economically indebted to Beijing in the process.

President Biden's administration secured agreement for a G7 equivalent of the Chinese scheme that will dovetail with moves to tackle climate change.

Leaders of the G7 agreed to calls by US President Joe Biden to band together to compete with China

It came as Washington steps up its rhetoric against China over human rights abuses and the regime's lack of transparency over the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, which US intelligence increasingly suspects was caused by an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.

The UK supports efforts to counter Chinese economic power – but has been more hesitant about criticising Beijing, with China 'doves' in the Government warning about the possible impact on future trade deals.

Under the new scheme, which is being dubbed the 'Green Belt Initiative', the countries will form a 'partnership on green investment' for developing countries, which the UK Government said would offer them a 'democratic alternative' to China.

Sources say the plan, called 'Build Back Better for the World', after Biden's election slogan, will finance 'everything from railways in Africa to wind farms in Asia' by 'giving developing countries access to better and faster finance, while accelerating the global shift to renewable energy and sustainable technology'. 

A source said: 'It means giving countries an alternative to a totalitarian paymaster.'

Behind the scenes of the summit, President Biden has been urging the rest of the G7 countries to 'speak out in a single voice' by including criticism of Chinese human rights abuses, such as forced labour for Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities, in the joint communique being released today. 

There has been resistance from the EU, which last year signed a deal with Beijing giving Europe and China greater access to each other's markets. The deal is currently on hold. 

President Biden's administration secured agreement for a G7 equivalent of the Chinese scheme that will dovetail with moves to tackle climate change

Mr Biden believes that the West's battle for domination with China will be the defining geopolitical struggle of the 21st Century.

A UK Government spokesman said: 'We have a pragmatic relationship with China.

This project stands on its own merits and is in line with the G7's priorities on ensuring the world builds back better and greener from the pandemic.

'It is designed to ensure developing countries have a choice in finding support from fair-minded countries in line with democratic principles.'

In a separate move, Mr Johnson has launched a £500 million Blue Planet Fund to support countries including Ghana, Indonesia and the Pacific island states to protect coastal ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs and reduce marine pollution.

A G7 'nature compact' will work towards a global target to conserve or protect at least 30 per cent of the world's land mass and 30 per cent of oceans globally by the end of the decade. 

Naturalist Sir David Attenborough will appear by videolink today to urge G7 leaders to take action on the environment.

He will tell the leaders that 'the decisions we make this decade – in particular the decisions made by the most economically advanced nations – are the most important in human history'.

Last night, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed the G7 leaders had talked about whether the pandemic might have been caused by a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan

Asked if the 'lab leak theory' was discussed, he replied: 'It was raised. We discussed... the origins.

'The origins were discussed in relation to now, but more in relation to how this should be handled in the future.'

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