Sunday, April 11, 2021

Balancing Act? After QUAD Summit, Rivals US & China To Hold ‘Strategic Dialogue’

As the QUAD nations get ready for their first-ever summit on Friday, reports have emerged about what is being termed as “a high-level strategic dialogue” between the US and rival China, scheduled for later this month. However, the agenda of this meeting is not yet known.   

QUAD that stands for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is an informal arrangement between the US, Japan, Australia, and India. The US has been pushing for this alliance to counter China in the Asia-Pacific, which Washington now calls Indo-Pacific, for quite some time.

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Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, will hold “high-level strategic dialogue with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NSA Jake Sullivan” in Anchorage on March 18 and 19, China’s state-owned Global Times reported on Thursday.

The GT report stressed the meeting is being held “at US invitation”.

On Wednesday, the White House had said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with top Chinese officials on March 18 in Alaska. This will be the first high-level in-person contact between the two sparring countries under the Biden administration, Reuters reported.

“It was important to us that this administration’s first meeting with Chinese officials be held on American soil, and occur after we have met and consulted closely with partners and allies in both Asia and Europe,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

While China is trying to project the upcoming meeting as a “strategic dialogue”, the timing of the meeting assumes significance. This meeting will be held after the heads of governments from QUAD nations will join their first-ever summit on Friday.

In addition, the upcoming US-China meeting has been convened in the wake of a top US commander’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, has apprised Congress about China’s increasing offensive military build-up and its expanding regional footprint, according to CNN.

“I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they’re putting in the field unless it is an aggressive posture. I see them developing systems, capabilities and a posture that would indicate that they’re interested in aggression,” Davidson told the Senate Committee.

He also described China as “the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st century”. He highlighted how Beijing has been carrying out increasingly threatening moves, citing Chinese military activity around Taiwan, along its disputed border with India, and even around US islands in the Pacific, CNN reported.

The Chinese state media has refuted Davidson’s comment, saying Beijing has no intention to challenge the US. Quoting Chinese experts, Global Times warned such a hostile attitude held by the US military could increase the risks of conflicts in the region, and that regional countries won’t share US hostility against China.

Chinese analysts said that the People’s Liberation Army is strengthening its combat capabilities to thwart new challenges. A large number of advanced weapons and equipment will be developed and commissioned as Beijing plans to turn PLA into a world-class military, they said.

The Biden administration is expected to review US policies toward China, as the world’s two largest economies navigate frosty relations that sank to their lowest depths in decades during Donald Trump’s presidency.

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