The Quad Alliance: A New Threat to China?
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), more commonly known as Quad, is an informal grouping of four countries that engage in strategic dialogue. The Quad consists of the United States, Australia, Japan and India. They participate in semi-regular summits, information exchanges, and joint military drills. Will they or are they already working on countering the People’s Republic of China’s rising global power? If so, will their plans be effective?
The four countries first worked together after the disastrous December 2004 earthquake that struck the Indian Ocean off the Indonesian coast. The 9.1 magnitude earthquake unleashed one of the deadliest tsunamis in history. The tsunami resulted in almost $10 billion in damages in the affected areas. The US, India, Japan and Australia pitched in to help and were even a part of the Tsunami Core Group. However, after the disaster, there was no more action or plan to form an alliance or take the relations further.
In 2007, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government recalled the four nation’s success from the 2004 tsunami and thought it would be beneficial for the democracies in the Indo-Pacific region to work together for things such as free and open trade and military drills. The four countries went so far as to organize a few talks and a joint military drill. However, China harshly criticised the alliance viewing it as an “attempt of containment by like-minded democracies in the Asia Pacific region”, as quoted by The Diplomat. This caused both Australia and India to withdraw.
Since then, officials from the group have met at least seven times, however, they have always been below the presidential or prime ministerial level. Discussions ranged from China’s trade practices to its growing military power. But the greatest show of strength (pre-March 12th Summit) was when the four nations met for the Malabar military training exercise in the Indian Ocean.
Despite trying to make the meetings a forum for efficient policy coordination since 2007, the Quad never had any substantial impact. The Alliance met in November of 2017 under the Trump administration. However, The Diplomat writer Ankit Panda notes how the statements released after the meeting by each country were “far from identical”. After looking at the four statements he notes that the Indian and Japanese statements were prepared with somewhat more deference to Chinese sensitivities, whereas the U.S. and Australian statements, in their comprehensiveness, had fewer qualms.
This gives us the idea that the countries didn’t seem to have their interests and plans aligned back in 2017. The March 12th summit is the first time since 2017 that the Alliance has been brought together.
The United States said that the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and economic cooperation were the main topics of discussion during the March 12th Summit. New Delhi said it would be discussing a “free and open Indo-Pacific” with President Biden (USA), Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (Japan) and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Australia).
Additionally, the US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the QUAD would be committed to delivering over a billion vaccine doses to ASEAN and the Indo Pacific by the end of 2022. Another very important detail discussed during the summit was the building of a supply chain of rare-earth materials that have the potential to challenge China’s dominance in the manufacturing of products such as smartphones and electric vehicle batteries.
As US-China tensions rise, the Biden administration plans to modernise the US economy by competing with China in certain sectors. According to reports, it is suggested that this move could loosen Beijing’s grip on the rare-earth materials supply chain.
What does China have to say?
Last October, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “What [the Quad] pursues is to trumpet the Cold War mentality and to stir up confrontation among different groups and blocs and to stoke geopolitical competition.”
Many analysts have suggested that the United States’ efforts to create and secure alliances in Asia is carefully designed to counter China’s growing global military and economic dominance. This is in response to China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the East and the South China Sea.
Recently, China warned that its ties with Bangladesh would be damaged if the country was to have any engagement with Quad. In a further comment the Chinese foreign ministry said “The four-member Quad is an exclusive clique rallying countries to work against China”.
But is the Quad really a threat to China?
Yes and no. China’s hegemony over the years has grown exponentially. Timothy Heath, senior analyst at the RAND Corp, a global think tank headquartered in the US, said "Many countries in the region, especially Southeast Asia, will likely welcome the closer cooperation among the Quad members to balance against China's power,”. If the Quad can carry out their economic plans effectively, such as the plan for the rare-earth material supply chain, they may stand a chance against the rising economic power. If China were to increase its military aggression, “the Quad could evolve into a more robust military alliance”, Heath said.
But the Quad is far from a united front. It’s important to point out the Quad is an informal alliance presently. Heath reiterates this and states, "It remains an informal gathering, with very little institutional backbone. In this sense, the Quad is most definitely not an 'Asian NATO’”.
The new alliance could create waves if policies are effectively implemented and plans are carried out efficiently. Is the March 12 summit a warning sign for China and its economic influence over the Indo-Pacific region? And is the Quad alliance really a threat to this economic superpower? Seeing the state of the transnational relations, we cannot say there is much hope in the near future.
Written by Krittika Barve
Edited by Thenthamizh SS & Adi Roy
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