The Group of Seven Wealthy Democracies on Tuesday discussed how to form a united front towards an increasingly assertive China in the first face-to-face talks with foreign ministers in two years.

Supporting US President Joe Biden’s calls for a deeper alliance of democracies, Britain invited guests including India, South Korea and Australia to talks in sprawling central London. over three days.

After a welcome dinner on Monday focused on Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs, foreign ministers opened formal talks at Lancaster House, a West End mansion, welcoming each other with favorable elbows to Covid and minimal staff.

The G7 devoted its first session on Tuesday to China, whose growing military and economic weight and the desire to exert its influence at home and abroad have increasingly troubled Western democracies.

“It is not our goal to try to contain or hold back China,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Monday.

“What we are trying to do is uphold the rules-based international order in which our countries have invested so much over so many decades for the benefit of, I would say, not only our own citizens but people all over the world – including, by the way, China. “

Mr Blinken pledged “solid cooperation” with Britain to put pressure on China in the Xinjiang region, where Beijing’s incarceration of a million Uyghurs and other Muslims has been called genocide by Washington, and repression of civil rights in Hong Kong.

‘Respect the commitments’

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for “forcing Beijing to honor the commitments they made”, including Hong Kong, which had been promised a separate system before London ceded the colony in 1997.

But in line with the Biden administration, which has changed the tone if not the substance of former President Donald Trump’s hawkish stance on China, Mr. Raab also called for “finding constructive ways to work with China in such a way. sensible and positive where possible ”. – including on climate change. “We want to see China take the lead and play its full role,” Raab said.

The G7 countries – which also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – mostly share concerns about China, but some have different approaches.

Japan has historic tensions with China, but has delayed joining Western nations with sanctions.

Italy was considered one of the Western nations most favorable to Beijing, signing in 2019 to the great Chinese initiative to build Belt and Road infrastructure. But Rome joined its EU peers in March in summoning the Chinese ambassador in a row sparked by concerns over the treatment of Uyghurs.

Russia, Myanmar, Libya, Syria and climate change and among other issues on the official agenda of foreign ministers.