OPINION - The G7 in Hiroshima is about symbolism — and resilience
If you shudder at the crippled supply chains, energy price shocks and geopolitical instability flowing from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has little on the global consequences of a Chinese attempt to take Taiwan by force.
China is far larger, economically stronger and more interconnected into the global trading system than Russia. Whether any invasion would succeed or fail - and amphibious landings are notoriously challenging - war games undertaken by the Center for Strategic and International Studies predict it would come at vast cost to United States, Taiwanese, Chinese and Japanese forces, as well of course as civilians.
There is, naturally, a Conservative Party splits angle to this story of global proportions. During his unsuccessful 2022 Conservative leadership campaign, Rishi Sunak said that “China and the Chinese Communist Party represent the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century”.
But as prime minister, Sunak has faced criticism from more hawkish Tory MPs for his apparent reticence. Indeed, the March update to the UK’s integrated review on foreign and defence policy describes China as representing an “epoch-defining and systemic challenge”, rather than a “threat” as others are demanding. Much more on that from Anne McElvoy.
Britain would almost certainly join other western nations in retaliatory economic and trade sanctions in the event of a war. These would be unimaginably costly and disruptive, made more so by the fact that Taiwan produces over 60 per cent of the world’s semiconductors and over 90 per cent of the most advanced chips which go into everything from mobile phones and cars to the systems that make shop tills work.
To that end, ahead of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Sunak unveiled a new agreement with Tokyo to foster closer defence, security and cyber ties, including a commitment to deploy a naval battle fleet in the Indo-Pacific in 2025 and to double UK troop numbers in upcoming joint exercises. Britain and Japan are also set to announce a semiconductor partnership to inject greater resilience into the supply chain.
The location of Hiroshima for this summit is of course hugely symbolic and a reminder of the appalling costs of war. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan is up there with climate change, environmental degradation and pandemics as a key risk to global prosperity and security. Like the Aukus deal, this G7 is an attempt to ramp up deterrence, resilience and in extremis, prepare for the fallout from the worst.
In the comment pages, Defence Editor Robert Fox says Ukraine has begun its summer offensive — and now F-16s are coming into play. Tomiwa Owolade argues Salman Rushdie was right to warn us about a slippery slope on free speech. While Melanie McDonagh rejoices that Opera is back but, despairs that the ENO is clearly on its knees.
And finally, where to have your cake and eat it. The 18 best bakeries in London, from Bread Ahead to Toklas, as determined by Ben McCormack and David Ellis.
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