Asia's NATO How the Quad is Changing China


it's safe to say that tensions globally are high at the moment with the war in Ukraine continuing to rumble on countries around the world have been re-evaluating their diplomatic military and security ties in fact, the likes of Finland and Sweden are now actively considering joining Nato while Germany has hailed a new era in defence spending one security alliance which is incredibly important but hasn't hit the headlines is the quad formerly known as the quadrilateral security dialogue and comprising of the us India Japan and Australia the quad is portrayed by some, especially in China as a mini–Asian Nato which begs the question well is it to probably understand the quad in its current form we need to go back to its inception for decades now the security of Asia and its allies has rested upon bilateral alliances typically including the us as the larger partner but as China's economic political and military might has grown bilateral relations just don't really cut it anymore so, following the 2004 tsunami which devastated parts of Indonesia India Sri Lanka and Thailand the us under president bush established a regional core group with India Japan and Australia to help coordinate relief efforts that regional core group though set the ball rolling for deeper cooperation just three years later in 2007 Shinzo Abe the then Japanese prime minister proposed an arc of freedom and prosperity between members a proposal which was dropped in favor of a new title the democratic security diamond and despite the coolness of both of those names the group was eventually rebranded the quadrilateral security dialogue or quad which isn't a bad name either the quad saw Japan India Australia and the us meet up to discuss security related issues and conduct a single joint navy exercise but the quad didn't end up lasting that long with Australia and India very quickly dropping out after immense Chinese opposition as the times highlighted back then the benefits of quadrilateral, unity seem to be outweighed by the dangers of infuriating and alienating such a powerful neighbor and valuable trading partner as China but evidently, that's no longer the case because 13 years after disbanding the quad was resurrected and properly this time meetings resumed under the trump administration with senior officials meeting in Manila in November 2017 before a major military exercise including aircraft carriers' submarines destroyers and special forces which took place in November 2020 and then a few months later in March 2021, the quad held its first official summit so with the quad back seemingly once and for all why people describing this grouping as a mini or Asian Nato well because it's clear there are some real similarities the Nato alliance was ultimately established during the cold war to protect Europe from their most pressing and Proxima enemy the Soviet Union in the eyes of China and Chinese officials especially the quad is a precursor to a beefed-up potentially military alliance against them while relations with China are not yet at the level of the Soviet Union during the cold war things certainly aren't rosy between China and the quad's members in fact, over the last few months and years Beijing has continued to escalate tensions regarding Taiwan and their control over the south China sea fast forward to the present day and these tensions are continuing to mount as we covered in a recent blog China recently signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands a move that shocked more or less everyone while we go more into detail about that in our dedicated blog the crux of the matter is that there's now a very very real risk that military bases might be established right on the doorsteps of Australia vastly increasing the territorial range of China's armed forces and ballistic weapons as well as potentially giving China the ability to blockade maritime routes to Australia and beyond so it's clear why they might be worried but China's deputy foreign minister for Asian affairs talking after the quad met in October 2020 stressed that the quad is an anti-China front line also known as a mini-Nato this reflects the cold war mentality of the us they said saying that China doesn't want to make trouble but they are not afraid of trouble however, the term mini-Nato or Asian Nato isn't quite the entire truth either unlike Nato, the quad has no defined structure operational command or anything like article 5 Nato's mutual defense clause in fact, there's not even a quad treaty it's all a bit ad hoc as the name suggests this isn't an alliance but a dialogue the quad, therefore, builds on a huge number of bilateral and trilateral relations Australia and the us have a dedicated formal security treaty so do Japan and the us Australia and India have a dedicated framework for security cooperation and so on and so forth so ultimately the quad is just layering on top of these existing agreements beyond mere structure though there is a question about the actual relationship of the quad members to China the likes of Japan Australia and India are relatively reliant on China when it comes to trade China is Japan's biggest importer with 133 billion dollars of Japanese goods entering the Chinese market in 2020 alone China is also Australia's largest export market by an astronomical margin 40.7 percent of all Australian exports comprising of 102 billion dollars went to China while Australia's second biggest export market is a little over a quarter of that this huge economic dependency on China and Chinese consumers ultimately means that the security alliance has had to be watered down building up a true Asian Nato with mutual defense clauses would whether rightly or not be seen by China as a direct affront to their security and at a front that would warrant economic sanctions yet as we've seen with the conflict in Ukraine sometimes economics isn't everything ultimately if there's a political will there will be a political way.