Biden’s “Quad” powers pose a challenge to China

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U.S. efforts to forge a new formal alliance of major Pacific democracies to counter China are expected to take a step forward in the White House on Friday, as heads of state of “quadruple” powers meet for the first time. in-person summit of strategic alignment that sparked growing frustration in Beijing.

Building on a diplomatic push first launched under the Trump administration, President Biden will host the leaders of India, Japan and Australia in what is officially known as the Dialogue. quadrilateral on security, a continued effort to rally the region’s most powerful democracies into a more formal group to deal with Communist China’s growing economic and military influence on the world stage.

Beijing bristled at the effort for months, Chinese President Xi Jinping warning in a speech in January that US attempts to rally the world against China risked triggering a “new cold war.” The Quad meeting comes just days after Mr Biden unveiled a new, separate alliance with Britain and Australia, anchored by a deal to supply US technology to Canberra to power a new generation of nuclear submarines.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is leaving his post in a few weeks, has broken with the tradition that lame Japanese leaders do not make big foreign policy trips to attend the White House rally. A senior government official told the Kyodo press service that Mr. Suga had decided to go “to make sure the Quad frame becomes a must-see” even after he left.

For Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose participation is widely seen as vital to the success of the Quad, the trip to Washington will be his first foray outside South Asia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has just finalized a major trilateral security pact with the United States and Britain, will also be present.

While Xi made no mention of the Quad in remarks this week at the United Nations, pro-Communist commentators did not hold back, with Chinese state media calling the Quad a “sinister gang” and warning the government. Japan, India and Australia to become “cannon fodder” if they also eagerly follow the United States

Trying to downplay the security aspect of the rally, officials in the Biden administration said Friday’s summit will focus primarily on logistical coordination around the global COVID-19 vaccination campaign. But the Chinese government is clearly more concerned with the expanding security implications of the Quad and the general tightening of diplomatic relations between Indo-peaceful democracies in response to collective fears of Chinese economic intimidation.

Like Washington, Canberra, New Delhi and Tokyo have all seen growing tensions with Beijing, although their economies remain closely tied to China’s vast industrial base and consumer markets.

“The purpose of the Quad Mechanism is to surround China,” the leading editorial on the website of the state-aligned Global Times newspaper warned Thursday. “If Japan, India and Australia have gone too far in following the US strategy of containment of China, they will become cannon fodder because China will resolutely protect its interests,” wrote two Chinese analysts.

The reality is that the Quad has become a “regular feature of Asian diplomacy” and “the Chinese hate it,” said Michael J. Green, director of Asian affairs for the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. now in the Center. for strategic and international studies in Washington.

Friday’s summit, meanwhile, follows last week’s announcement of a new security pact between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, which many see as a parallel effort to counter the China. Analysts say the two initiatives underscore the desire of the world’s leading democracies to respond more vigorously to China’s growing economy and security, its aggressive claims of sovereignty against its many smaller neighbors, and its willingness to present Chinese authoritarian model to developing countries as more stable and prosperous this liberal Western-style democracy.

Discomfort and momentum

Unease has also been mounting for months over the growing provocations of the Chinese army against Taiwan. On the eve of the Quad’s inaugural summit, China on Thursday sent 24 fighter jets to Taiwan in a massive show of force after the autonomous island said it would apply to join a trade group of 11 Pacific nations. which China has also asked to join. .

Mr Green told reporters on a conference call this week that there are a number of reasons for the Quad’s momentum.

Xi “has taken a much harsher line on his neighbors, with violence against Indian troops in the Himalayan mountains [and] a marked increase in military and paramilitary operations around Japanese waters, ”he said. Beijing has also embarked on “a relentless embargo against Australia on exports of everything from wine to coal due to Australian government criticism of China’s human rights.”

“So there is an emergency for the Quad now,” he said. “It has truly become one of the most important parts of the diplomatic toolbox for these four countries.”

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a similar assessment, saying China’s provocative behavior has ultimately caused other countries to draw a line.

“The Quad is particularly problematic for China’s strategy because its goal of unifying a multilateral resistance coalition has the potential to stiffen thorns across the entire Indo-Pacific and possibly beyond.” Mr. Rudd, who is now the president of the Asia Society in New York, wrote last month in Foreign Affairs.

“For Xi, the critical question is whether the Quad will evolve to be large enough, cohesive and complete enough to balance effectively against China, thus undermining any sense that its dominance, in Asia or the world, is inevitable,” Mr Rudd wrote.

Mr Rudd suggested that Chinese leaders’ concern has grown as lawmakers in Washington aligned with a more aggressive US policy towards Beijing, criticizing China’s human rights record, its crushing democracy in Hong Kong and its mismanagement of the early days of the COVID-19 virus and its secrecy about the origin of the virus.

Beijing’s concern, he wrote, is that efforts like the Quad could derail what he described as Xi’s desire over the next 15 years to make China the “first power.” economic, technological and potentially even military ”and“ start to rewrite the rules. international order – and consolidate its position as a world leader.

Patrick M. Cronin, president of Asia-Pacific security at the Hudson Institute in Washington, said in a recent interview that he believed Xi had encouraged the Quad’s momentum by adopting an offensive foreign policy.

“The fear that Taiwan will be whipped by China and that other regional actors, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, will be intimidated by China, pushes the leaders of the Quad to want to help,” he said. . “They want to do something to help isolate Southeast Asia from intimidation and coercion from China.”

“The point here,” he said, “is that the perception of the” Chinese threat “has increased dramatically in the eyes of New Delhi, Tokyo, Canberra and Washington in recent years.”

Mr Suga told Bloomberg News in an interview this week that “the shifting balance of power brought by China’s rise in the Indo-Pacific, as well as the growing domestic attention spurred by the pandemic, has heightened l ‘uncertainty’,

Despite promoting the Quad, officials in the Biden administration have sought to avoid provocative rhetoric in public about the initiative. A White House statement announcing the Quad leaders summit made no mention of China. Mr Biden in his address to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week also avoided a direct attack on China and said at one point: “We are not looking for a new cold war or a world divided into blocs. rigid.

The White House statement said that Quad leaders “will focus on deepening our ties and promoting practical cooperation in areas such as combating COVID-19, tackling the climate crisis, the partnership on emerging technologies and cyberspace; and the promotion of an Indo-free and open. Pacific. “

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