President Joe Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House staff, participates in the virtual Quad Summit with Australia, India, and Japan Friday, March 12, 2021, in the State Dining Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
The Quad Is a Delusion

U.S. politics may be hyperpolarized, but on China policy, there’s considerable cross-party consensus. Republican and Democratic leaders increasingly see the country as the main threat to Pax Americana.

GOP hawk Sen. Tom Cotton warned China’s export controls on rare earth metals and military buildup reflect this ambition, a jeremiad echoed by the likes of Republican politicians Ted CruzNikki HaleyMitt Romney, and Marco Rubio. And although the right may paint Democrats as soft on China, the evidence suggests otherwise. U.S. President Joe Biden started rallying the United States’ Asian allies—Australia, Japan, and South Korea—to counter Beijing in the Indo-Pacific even before his inauguration, and he hasn’t let up. The president’s punitive economic measures, including bans on U.S. investments of 59 Chinese companies, mimic his predecessor’s. In May, Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council’s Indo-Pacific coordinator, declared “the period that was broadly defined as engagement has come to an end.” In all this, Biden is in step with his party. Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Beijing seeks “global dominance,” and a House Intelligence Committee report chided the intelligence community for not taking China’s challenge seriously enough. Meanwhile, the $250 billion United States Innovation and Competition Act introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer amounts to a multifaceted plan for containing China.

One specific facet of U.S. China policy that also blurs the Trump-Biden distinction is strengthening the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad. Comprised of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan, it emerged in 2007 as a brainchild of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and held its first summit this March, after which its members issued a joint statement. Following the conclave, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to northeast Asia to maintain the momentum. Austin also added India to his itinerary. Chinese officials promptly lambasted the Quad as the real threat to peace and even warned smaller Indo-Pacific countries—Bangladesh for one—not to cooperate with it, essentially repeating the message it delivered to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last fall.

The Quad’s emergence shouldn’t surprise Beijing. Rising powers routinely evoke countervailing coalitions, and shared anxiety about an adversary can contribute to their cohesion—but that’s just a starting point. The Quad’s problem is it doesn’t have much else to run on and hence will ultimately amount to U.S. power with a multilateral veneer.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

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