G7 urged to take ‘allied action’ against China on artificial intelligence, quantum and 5G

26 Jan 2021 | News

Politicians call on leaders to get tough at June summit, as anxiety grows over China’s technological edge

Xi Jinping

Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Almost 70 prominent legislators from the G7 group of rich nations and the European Parliament have penned a letter to the leaders of their countries urging them to “unite around a plan of action” against China that addresses its growing market power in artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and 5G technology.

In a letter published on Monday before a G7 summit in the UK in June, signatories from the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and the European Parliament criticised China for "manning bottleneck positions" in international bodies, and called on G7 leaders to "avoid becoming dependent" on China for technology.

“The power inherent to platform technologies such as quantum computing and AI cannot be overstated,” tweeted Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Germany's Bundestag, who organised the letter. “China has taken the lead in some of these future industries. The free world must avoid becoming dependent on a country that rejects market principles and democratic values.”

The letter points to five areas of concern where the leaders called for “allied action”, including international institutional reform, technological standards, human rights, tensions in the Indo-pacific regions and co-operation on COVID-19. The statement also highlights the treatment of the Muslim Uighur population, described as “genocide” by the outgoing US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.

China is accused of holding back critical information on COVID-19 at an early stage and undermining the World Health Organisation. "To prepare and prevent future outbreaks, we believe that an independent investigation into the origins and spread of the virus is necessary," the letter says.

China is pushing back. In an address to the virtual World Economic Forum Monday, the country’s president, Xi Jinping, sent out a warning to Joe Biden that he risks a new cold war if he continues with the policies of his predecessor.

Xi instead touted a multilateral approach to solving the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and said the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to reverse globalisation in favour of “decoupling and seclusion”.

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