Quad leaders, meeting in person for first time, are seen to plan several initiatives for confronting China
- US President Joe Biden and prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan expected to announce measures on vaccines, climate change and 5G
- By not moderating its assertive military posture in Indo-Pacific, Beijing may be driving greater regional interest in the group, analysts say
The leaders of a new military alliance that the Chinese government has lashed out against in recent months are gathering in Washington and, analysts say, Beijing’s reactions may be undermining its own interests by pushing the Quad into closer military coordination with other US allies.
As several analysts at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) noted in a discussion on Wednesday, those initiatives face daunting challenges, including Beijing‘s control of many raw materials needed for vaccines and the deep business ties that private companies in each of the four countries have in China.
But in the near term at least, the Quad leaders may find more strength on the military front because China is showing no sign of moderating its more assertive military posture, and the more the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) flexes its muscle in the Indo-Pacific region, the more other countries aligned with Quad members will be inclined to cooperate with the group.
“China’s becoming more and more assertive and challenging many of our allies and partners in the region,” said Bonnie Lin, director of the China Power Project at CSIS.
After Quad summit discusses China threat, Beijing says ‘cliques’ drive wedge between countries
“I think Britain was keen to be working with the Quad and through Aukus,” said Michael Green, senior vice-president for the Asia and Japan Chair at CSIS, said in a discussion the think tank held on Wednesday.
“I think you will see Canada, maybe the Netherlands, maybe New Zealand” also cooperate with the Quad as a group, Green added.
Richard Rossow, a senior adviser on US-India relations at CSIS, noted that Prime Minister Modi’s willingness to travel to Washington, along with Suga and Morrison, “in the middle of a pandemic … for the first time, in person, is pretty significant”.
Yue Gang, a former PLA colonel, said at the time that the PLA was sending a message to the US that “the Chinese military is responding to US moves to team up with its allies”.
China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond when asked to comment on the contention that its military posture was driving US allies together.
Regardless of which exercise provoked what nation, the Quad members and allied countries will continue to band together against China, Yun Sun, the director of the China Programme at the Stimson Centre, another Washington think tank, said in a separate interview.
“I don’t think Quad was presented as a closed mechanism since its inception, and for countries concerned with China’s military build-up and assertiveness, it is only a natural reaction for them to want to align positions for collective power,” she said.
“China always sees its military modernisation as a response to US military predominance in the region, but the inevitable result is that countries in the region are also threatened because of the Chinese military build-up and want to counter it,” Sun added. “If a regional arms race begins there, it is difficult to say who started it.”