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BC’s Tales of the Pacific |  Chinese power grows, Quad grows more important

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WHAT is the Quad?

It is good to familiarize yourself with it. Chances are, you will hear more of it in the future. It is short for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and it exists as an Indo-Pacific version of NATO.

In 2007, as Chinese presence in the Pacific grew, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed that the main democracies in the region start a conversation about international security concerns. The four original members were Japan, United States, India and Australia, thus the Quad.

With changes in political leadership in all the countries around 2008, the Quad fell into obscurity as countries sought more friendly, less confrontational relationships with China. Particularly, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda opened dialogues with Chinese leadership in an effort to cultivate friendship with the economic and military giant. Foremost on the agenda was always Taiwan, and each country hoped the problem could be resolved through diplomacy.

More recently, with aggressive Chinese moves in the South China Sea, the introduction of the Belt and Road Initiative, and Chinese fishing fleets plundering the seas, China has signaled its willingness to get what it wants by any means, regardless of what the international community has to say about it, so in 2017 the Quad was revived. The return of Shinzo Abe to leadership in Japan had much to do with the Quad’s new relevance as well. After all, it was his idea to begin with. The United States’ Donald Trump and India’s Narendra Modi are also alarmed by growing Chinese hubris. 

In March 2020, the Quad met to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and were joined for the first time by representatives from New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam. Not coincidentally, those three nations have all experienced unwelcome Chinese attention lately. Does this signal the growth of the Quad into a larger, regional, anti-Chinese alliance? Beijing certainly thinks so. Chinese officials have characterized the Quad as a blatant military alliance.  Dr. Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies in Australia, says, “they see this as a pattern in which the U.S. and Japan have been trying to consolidate an alliance of democracies in Asia, which they feel is directed against them.”

Will the Quad be the basis for a regional security alliance, like NATO in Europe? Some say it already is. Will the Philippines grow tired of China’s meddling in the South China Sea and align with the Quad? Some argue that it should. Will Pacific nations increasingly find themselves having to choose between help from China and help from Quad nations? It is already happening.

 

 

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He currently resides on the mainland U.S.


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