China threatens Biden’s meeting with Quad: India, Australia, Japan
WASHINGTON – China has escalated its deadly border conflict with India, launched a punitive trade blockade against Australia and stepped up military patrols around Japanese-controlled islands.
The leaders of the three countries grappling with tensions with China gathered at the White House for a meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday. China’s growing economic and military prowess wasn’t officially on the agenda, but Beijing was the elephant in the room.
Friday’s meeting of the “Quad” – the diplomatic nickname for this growing alliance between the United States, India, Japan and Australia – was intended to send a clear signal to Beijing that the The United States and its allies in the Indo-Pacific are serious about countering China’s global ambitions.
“We are here together, in the Indo-Pacific region, a region which we wish to always be free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and where disputes are resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law. “, said the Prime Minister of Australia. Scott Morrison said at the start of the meeting.
The President hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Morrison, whom Biden met earlier this week, for the Quad Partnership’s first face-to-face meeting. Biden separately met Modi, who met with Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday, and will later hold a side meeting with Suga.
“We are four great democracies with a long history of cooperation,” Biden told his foreign counterparts. “We know how to get things done and are up to the challenge.”
David Shullman, an expert on China with the Atlantic Council think tank and former U.S. intelligence official, said China’s recent assaults on India, Japan and Australia – as well as its threats against Taiwan and its crackdown on Hong Kong – gave the region’s leaders a new sense of urgency and a common goal.
“China is really taking the lion’s share of the credit for making this possible,” he said at an Atlantic Council briefing ahead of Friday’s meeting.
Biden and his foreign counterparts are expected to discuss the pandemic, climate change and the steps each country is taking to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure against cyber threats, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. to preview the meeting.
It’s not clear whether Friday’s session will result in new deals, but experts hope the four leaders can cooperate on everything from supply chain issues to the COVID-19 pandemic – arenas where China already exercises its economic and diplomatic power.
Executives are expected to announce a new supply chain initiative to address a global semiconductor chip shortage and cooperation on the deployment of 5G technology.
The president also announced a joint scholarship that will bring students from the four countries to elite U.S. universities to study science and technology over the next year.
Biden said partner countries were on track to produce an additional 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in India to increase global supply, a pledge that was delayed after India banned international exports of vaccines in the midst of the April epidemic.
India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, announced earlier this week that it would resume exports in October and prioritize the United Nations-backed global vaccine-sharing alliance known as by COVAX. The Quad has pledged to deliver 1 billion doses across Asia by the end of 2022.
Modi is among world leaders who have lobbied the World Trade Organization to drop a patent provision that would allow pharmaceutical companies to share their COVID-19 formulations with other manufacturers, thus opening up the access to the poorest countries which desperately need vaccines.
Friday’s meeting follows a sweeping defense deal under which the US and UK agreed to help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. The Chinese Navy has recently overtaken the US Navy in terms of combat ships, and the new pact with Australia could act as a counterweight to Beijing’s military might.
A new cold war?
Chinese officials denounced the deal as “extremely irresponsible” and said it was part of an “outdated, cold war, zero-sum mentality.” They are also upset by the rise of the Quad, which a foreign ministry spokesman described as an “exclusive clique” designed to sow discord between China and its neighbors.
But Shullman says China is to blame for the Quad’s “holding power”. He highlighted China’s military aggression on the disputed border with India and Beijing’s decision to impose tariffs on Australian goods after the country’s leaders called for a further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
“This highlights the fallacy of China’s argument that this Quad rally is somehow a provocation for a China loving stability in the region,” he said. “It was China’s coercion and military aggression that ultimately caused these countries to overcome their differences and jointly face the obvious threats that China’s growing power poses to them.”
Some defense experts fear the confrontation could turn into a new Cold War, especially as China continues to threaten Taiwan’s sovereignty, has decided to expand its control over the South China Sea, and has deployed ships in the waters around the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.
Biden presented US policy towards China as an ideological battle between democracy and authoritarianism, but insisted he was not interested in seeking a new Cold War in remarks to the General Assembly of United Nations earlier this week.
“Our approach to China is one of competition, not one of conflict,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday.
She stressed that the summit was not a security meeting but a chance for the group to discuss cooperation on COVID, climate change, emerging technologies and infrastructure.
Daniel DePetris, a member of Defense Priorities, a Washington-based think tank that advocates military restraint, warned against any attempt to turn the Quad into a military alliance. He said it could be counterproductive for Japan, India and Australia and leave Washington with a new security burden, as countries would depend almost entirely on US military might to balance China.
“If they are taking this route, it is the exact opposite of what the administration is publicly warning against, which is a new cold war,” DePetris said. “I am concerned that if it cemented itself into some kind of military alliance exclusively against the Chinese military, it could somehow divide the region into democratic and authoritarian blocs, which would make cooperation with the Chinese on issues like COVID and climate change much more difficult. “
But Paula Dobriansky, a retired diplomat and national security official, said the Quad could prevent the confrontation with China from escalating further.
“I see this as a deterrent not only of a cold war but in fact of an outbreak of conflict,” she said at the Atlantic Council briefing.