Quad announces a new era of micro-alliances against China
US President Joe Biden recently visited Asia in a bid to strengthen relations in the region, including meeting with Quad alliance leaders from America, Japan, India and Australia.
This group of like-minded states represents an increasingly important 21st century diplomatic mechanism in place of an Asian NATO.
Biden’s trip coincided with a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Fiji, as part of Beijing’s failed attempts to bring together a coalition of Pacific island states. China has been courting Pacific nations for some time as it tries to expand its diplomatic reach.
Most notably, a security deal with the Solomon Islands could open the door to a Chinese military presence there.
All of these efforts illustrate the kind of reshaped world order we can expect to see in the future. The new security landscape is made up of pacts between a small number of states that produce powerful security groupings with a very specific focus on deterring other major powers. Welcome to a new era of micro-alliances in international politics.
The Quad has its roots in cooperative disaster response efforts following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, but has evolved in recent years to become more of a safety issue.
Although the process has stuttered at various times, it has regained relevance, particularly as a practical means of countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through which the country uses international investment to boost its influence in Eurasia and Africa.
The Quad has now pledged more than $50 billion in aid and infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific over the next five years to counter China’s economic clout in the region.
Each of the member states has bilateral issues with China, including territorial disputes, historically rooted tensions and strained diplomatic relations. But the main motivation for its maintenance and promotion is the realpolitik consideration of constraining the People’s Republic.
This was confirmed in a 2019 speech by then-US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who described the group’s role as “ensuring that China only retains its place in the world.”
China has shown itself to be increasingly assertive in recent years, particularly with regard to the South China Sea, but also in terms of its economic policies such as the BRI and its sometimes belligerent diplomatic rhetoric.
This has prompted states across the Asia-Pacific region — and beyond — to rethink previous policies that focused more on engagement with China than containment.
In this light, the Quad can be seen as a demonstration of the willingness of the United States and its allies to react more assertively to defend their position and their interests in the region. This has not gone unnoticed in China.
The Global Times, a state-owned tabloid, has repeatedly called the Quad “a sinister Indo-Pacific gang to contain China”.
The underlying principle of the Quad has parallels with AUKUS, a security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. This was announced in September 2021 with the initial aim of helping Australia develop nuclear-powered submarines.
There is also the Five Eyes, an intelligence sharing agreement between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The fundamental difference of the Quad is the presence of two Asian powers hungry for support to counterbalance China on their doorstep.
Importantly, the importance of the Quad grows in the context of almost complete silence from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This is despite efforts to convince the 10 ASEAN member states that the Quad offers opportunities beyond security, such as the investment promise already mentioned.
New world order
From a more macro perspective, the Quad—along with AUKUS, Five Eyes, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a regional economic partnership—provides a bird’s-eye view of overall U.S. strategy. to contain China in the decades to come. .
We are not yet in a new cold war, but we no longer live in a unipolar world dominated by a hegemonic United States. This recomposition of the international order was already underway, driven by China’s growing assertiveness.
But Russia’s assault on Ukraine, accompanied by Beijing’s “limitless” cooperation with Moscow, has accelerated and exacerbated the drawing of lines around the world.
Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, explicitly confirmed this direction in a recent speech:
Even if President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order – and that is the one posed by the People’s Republic of China.
A direct conflict is not to be expected imminently, but it is clear that the global strategic competition between the United States and China is intensifying. The Quad is just the most recent example of how teams line up.
Ed Griffith is Deputy Head of the School of Humanities, Language & Global Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, and Moises de Souza is Head of the Bachelor’s Degree Program in International Relations at the University of Central Lancashire.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.