Asian Insider

Is the Quad an anti-China club? How 4 nations plan to engage Beijing

US President Joe Biden (left) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (second left) attend the virtual Quad meeting at the White House in Washington, on March 12, 2021. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

One week ago, the Quad nations met in their first leader-level summit and emerged with pledges to work together on vaccines, supply chains and technology.

China was not mentioned but it looms large both as a threat and an opportunity for all four - the US, Japan, India and Australia. How will the Quad engage China?

Quad summit underscores Biden administration's focus on Asia

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The discordant start to the first high-level US-China meeting on President Joe Biden's watch - on Thursday (March 18) afternoon in Anchorage, Alaska - during which top diplomats from both sides lectured each other in public, will only serve to reinforce the underlying rationale of the Quad: China's increasing assertiveness.

The March 12 summit of the Quad - bringing together the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the US - was notable for the announcement that it will catalyse the delivery of one billion vaccine doses to South-east Asia, combining the manufacturing, financial, logistical and other strengths that all four countries can deploy.


Quad grouping viewed in Japan as a means to neutralise China's influence

Japan would have an eye on the economic impact. PHOTO: AFP

Japan sees the Quad as an alignment of democracies to further push its Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) vision, which has shifted from a narrow maritime focus to a wider ambit that includes Covid-19 vaccines and climate change.

But the seeming convergence in the objectives of the Quad and FOIP belies a realisation that these issues carry national security implications.


Border row with China alters New Delhi's strategic calculations

India is the only one to have been involved in a military stand-off with China in recent years. PHOTO: AFP

During the recent Quad summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the grouping's agenda as a "force for global good".

Yet, China remains unmistakably a strong factor for all four members of the grouping - Australia, India, Japan and the United States.


Bolstered Quad security partnership addresses Canberra's concerns

Australia is currently desperate to cement alignments and coalitions. PHOTO: ST FILE

The prospect of a strengthened security partnership with the United States, India and Japan prompted some unusually grandiose expressions of jubilation and delight in Australia.

In a triumphant address to a meeting of MPs from his ruling coalition, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the elevated status of the four-way partnership - the Quad - was a historic event that sent a message to the region about the merits and value of liberal democracy.


Beijing has concerns about Quad despite publicly dismissing it

Beijing's strategy in dealing with the Quad has so far been to label it as irrelevant. PHOTO: REUTERS

A joint statement by the United States, India, Australia and Japan after their Quad summit last week made no mention of China, but Beijing is under no illusion that the four do not have their sights on keeping it in check.

In a statement just hours before the Quad nations held the first meeting of their leaders on March 12, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that countries should not "target or damage interests of a third party" and should not "pursue exclusive blocs".


No EU consensus on approach towards Quad grouping

No consensus is emerging in European capitals about how Europe should interact with the Quad. PHOTO: AFP

The first summit of the leaders of the so-called Quad - Australia, India, Japan and United States - was followed intently by European governments.

But although European decision-makers are encouraged by the Biden administration's multilateral approach to Asian security questions, no consensus is emerging in European capitals about how Europe should interact with the Quad.


India's vaccine manufacturing prowess drives new Quad initiative

No consensus is emerging in European capitals about how Europe should interact with the Quad. PHOTO: AFP

India's pharmaceutical capacity is at the centre of a Quad initiative to deliver one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of next year.

Officials from the four Quad members - Australia, India, Japan and the United States - are now working out the fine details of the so-called Quad Vaccine Partnership which could potentially cover the vaccination of nearly everyone in Asia besides those in its two most populous countries - China and India.


The Quad's promise of peace... and conflict

A view of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) leaders during a virtual meeting in Tokyo on March 12, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

It is highly significant that the leaders of Japan, the United States, Australia and India, which share such values as democracy and rule of law, have agreed to tackle various problems that the world is facing.

In the first summit talks held among the four countries, their leaders confirmed that they would promote the distribution of coronavirus vaccines to developing countries. They also agreed to cooperate in the field of maritime security, towards the realisation of a "free and open Indo-Pacific".


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