United States President Donald Trump might have had his hands full while contesting Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden for America’s future, however, he remains adamant that China be put to the sword by his Quad grouping which includes India, Japan and Australia.
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The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), which had its last meeting at the start of October in Tokyo, is considered Asia’s answer to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) like alliance, to thwart the aggression of China in a similar fashion to that of Russia in the West.
However, while NATO, which celebrated its 71st anniversary in April this year, has found immense success with the support and commitment of its 30 North American and European member nations, to replicate the same feat with a Quad will be a steep climb to the top of the mountain.
While for the last four years, Quad has been operating as a four-nation team, the grouping would be willing to expand the membership to more nations, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Korea and Japan, Marc Knapper.
Knapper said the group is not currently “advertising for new members” or asking “who can sign up and what are your qualifications?” But once the group determines its policy direction, it will not exclude other countries, he said.
“The Quad is not meant to be an exclusive … or insular organisation. At some point in the future, perhaps it’ll expand,” he added.
The list of countries that might join the Quad could include Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand, among others. However, according to experts based in Beijing, even if the expansion goes ahead, the result would be disappointing.
Sun Chenghao, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said, “Even if the Quad achieves its expansion, its influence on China would be limited.”
While the Quad members are united in their effort to curb the expansionist policy of China in areas such as the South China Sea and eastern Ladakh, however, most of the countries including Japan and India prefer diplomatic means to tackle China instead of facing them head-on.
“Many political analysts from the international community are clearly aware that each member of the group has their own considerations and they have failed to reach a consensus on how to deal with China,” observes China’s state-owned Global Times.
Among the four, it seems that it is only the US that is sparing no effort to build the Quad into an “Asian NATO.” Even though Japan and Australia have maintained a close alliance with the US, both heavily rely on China in terms of their economies.” Lu Yuanzhi writes in an editorial for the Global Times.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s homeland India is one of the leading Quad members who have seen their ties drastically deteriorate with China ever since the deadly Galwan Valley clash in June this year.
While the militaries of the two nations have been squaring off against each other in several sectors of Ladakh as they prepare for a potential winter war, the increased diplomatic efforts by India to diffuse tensions with China speaks volumes on how it would rather seek friendship with President Xi Jinping than fight a war it cannot afford to lose.
“Though border tensions between China and India have escalated, India is also unwilling to see a complete break with China. As India’s economy has been significantly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, India is counting on China, its second-largest trading partner, to help revive its economy,” Lu wrote.
“Additionally, India has always pursued an independent foreign policy, thus it will not be completely inclined to the US in its China policy,” he adds.
While United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has spoken highly of Quad’s mechanism of strengthening ties with regional allies against the “exploitation, corruption and coercion” of China’s governing Communist Party, another dynamic that Trump will have to be wary about is that of Japan.
Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was instrumental in the formation of the Quad initiative, with the country leading the charge against China, however, following his departure, there are doubts whether his successor Yoshihide Suga will display the same enthusiasm in the common fight.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is reported to have said that Japan was not aiming at an “Asian NATO” to contain any specific country.
“Suga’s rhetoric can basically mirror the real intent of Japan and most Asian countries. They are unwilling to take sides between two giants. Siding with the US against China is inconsistent with their national interests,” Sun observed.
However, the landscape is between the regional grouping in the future post the US elections of November 3, the four countries are geared to carry out the crucial Malabar Naval Exercise next month, a sign that China might indeed be dealt a surprise it could do well without.