The Quad is dead

Australia has decided that it pays to be nice to China

There’s an interesting discussion going on down under about the death of the “Quad”, a grouping involving India, Japan, Australia and the United States. It was not only seen as an Asia-Pacific “concert of democracies”, but more importantly, as a quiet attempt to balance China’s rising power in the region.

Over at the Lowy Interpreter, Raoul Hienrichs argues that more than the election of pro-China governments in Japan and Australia, the Quad died because China killed it (peacefully, of course).

But there is also something quite revealing about this dynamic. That the Rudd Government did not have to explicitly defer to China’s concerns, because Tokyo and New Dehli had already backed away from the quadrilateral arrangement, is itself a clear indication of China’s rising influence and perhaps Washington’s gradual relative decline in Asia. Moreover, China’s willingness to use its considerable diplomatic weight to prevent the emergence of a regional grouping perceived to be inimical to its interests suggests a new level of confidence in China’s foreign and strategic policy, and an increased awareness among its policy makers of their capacity to independently shape China’s strategic environment. [Lowy Interpreter]

Clearly, at a time when the Australian economy is witnessing a sustained boom thanks to resource exports to China, and that the economic news coming out of the United States is getting worse, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government might have calculated that now is not the time to attempt to balance China. Snubbing Japan, though, was wholly unnecessary. For if ever Australia changes its mind on its own position vis-a-vis China’s strategic rise, Japan, India and the United States are the only ones it can count on. For them, the interests that led to the move towards the quadrilateral initiative are fundamental—even if current governments are lukewarm about a showy new regional grouping.

3 thoughts on “The Quad is dead”

  1. Rudd’s actually coming over next month to to deliver a lecture at the LSE.

    “Mr Rudd has said that his Government’s mandate is to build a modern Australian economy capable of dealing with the challenges of the 21st century.” This neatly links into your point, Nitin of Australia recognising the benefits of choosing China, in a sense over its old allies, Japan & the US. It also signals a paradigm shift in how Australia is trying to recast its identity from being a wholly Western state to one with primarily pacific/East-Asian concerns. I think this demostrates a sensible pragamatism in Australian Foreign Policy.

    But, as a researcher from the Lowy Institute wrote in Paragati, Australia ignores India at her own peril. I like your point of how China managed to kill the quad (peacefully!!). India can’t just sit back and let them have one dipomatic coup after the other.

    Any which way, this humble student intends to grill Mr. Rudd fully over Australia’s decision to pull out of the quad and abandoning old friends. link

  2. Vijay,

    More power to you sir. Please come back and tell us how the steak was. Well done, or medium rare.

  3. MEA was furious when Aussie FM announced it in Beijing last month, apparently without consulting rest of the quadpowers…But compared to MEA appeasement of Chinese with regards non-visit to Tawang and now terrorizing peaceful Tibetans in the country, Aussie appeasement is nothing really. When Gates visited Canberra weeks ago, he got a similar message – suck up to the Chinese dictators. Apparently, all it takes to sucking up is learning little bit of mandarin!!

    With Bush being a lame duck, Fukuda being powerless even in Japan, and Manmohan being whatever he is, Aussie-Chinese – minerals for appeasement – love affair will blossom. Although the Chinese have already started sticking it to the Aussies mineral-appeasement formula…

    With that and Uranium snobbery, there is nothing going on between India and Aussie, except cricket and of course useless platitudes…

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