Quad Group Makes Vaccine Deal as Wary China Watches On
An announcement of a vaccine deal was made to help low-income countries fight the COVID pandemic.
The Quad is not a military alliance; it’s not a new NATO, despite some of the propaganda that’s out there.US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
But the fact is there would be no Quad, and no inaugural summit of the leaders of the US, Japan, India and Australia if it were not for deepening alarm among the US and its allies about how China’s rise might affect peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values and unconstrained by coercion.US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
If this is not “fundamentally about China”, it’s not clear what it is about.
It remains to be seen whether the first Quad summit bolsters the group’s ability to counter a rising and increasingly assertive China, or whether differing priorities among its participants expose its limitations.
The Quad is being marketed as a constellation of liberal democracies against an illiberal China. But there is a world of difference in how each of the participants views and interacts with China.
Not Just About China
Canberra would be foolish to invest too much faith in what is, at this early stage, a consultative body that will meet semi-regularly to discuss regional challenges and conduct military exercises.
This is not a “new dawn” in Asia, even if we are witnessing a Chinese sun rising.
In this regard, it is a positive development that Quad leaders have undertaken to supply up to one by the end of 2022. This is a practical demonstration of the Quad’s potential and one aimed at countering China’s soft power.
A ‘New Kind of Diplomacy’
The United States, Japan, India and Australia established what was described then as the “Tsunami Core Group”. This initiative represented a “new type of diplomacy” to face an existential challenge.
In 2007, the first meeting of the Quad was held on the fringes of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila. The Quad showed promise as a regional grouping, but the Kevin Rudd government, elected that year, abandoned the Quad dialogue on the grounds that it would be perceived as being part of a China-containment policy.
This did not align with the strategic impulse of Rudd’s Labor party, which was to continue to elevate relations with Beijing.
Since then, participants elevated a dialogue among themselves to defence and foreign minister level. Quad countries have also participated in regular military exercises. However, until last week, when newly-elected President Joe Biden decided that in his first significant foreign policy initiative he would bring together Quad leaders, the body had lacked head-of-government imprimatur, and thus credibility.
That has changed.
This is provided it does not get bogged down in a defensive anti-China mindset in dealing with regional concerns from China’s power to climate change to health challenges.
This will be the first high-level meeting between senior American and Chinese officials since the inauguration of the Biden administration on January 20. The Anchorage meeting will be critical to Washington’s efforts to establish a better working relationship with Beijing.
Top of the agenda will be discussion about a prospective summit between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This is shaping as one of the more important encounters of the modern era.
The Blinken-Sullivan meeting with Chinese counterparts will be framed by a with Xi, in which he told the Chinese leader the US intended to challenge China’s “coercive and unfair economic practices” as well as its record on human rights, and its crackdown on Hong Kong.
According to the White House summary of that discussion, Biden also said he hoped to cooperate with Xi on matters like the coronavirus, nuclear proliferation and climate change.
China’s response to the Quad meeting has been predictable, although less florid than might have been anticipated. This no doubt reflects an understanding in Beijing that attitudes in New Delhi, Tokyo, Washington and Canberra are not identical. This is how in a commentary: The Quad is not an alliance of like-minded countries as the US claims. The three countries other than the US would probably take a tactic of coordinating with the US in narrative while sticking to their own approaches to China.
Beijing will seek to wedge Quad members where it believes opportunities arise. Its wedge diplomacy will be a test for the group’s solidarity in its efforts to provide a regional counterweight to China.
Consolidation of the Quad’s importance will depend on self-interest of its various participants and circumstances. Beijing’s willingness to acknowledge the legitimate interests of Quad members will determine whether it proves to be a useful addition to a crowded regional architecture, or another irritant in an increasingly fractious relationship between China and the West.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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