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ASPI’s decades: Quad 1.0 and Quad 2.0

Posted By on December 6, 2021 @ 06:00

ASPI celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. This series looks at ASPI’s work since its creation in August 2001.

Quad 1.0 had a tentative start and then crashed. Reborn in 2017, Quad 2.0 has had two leaders’ summit in 2021.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue has become a grouping.

Australia, India, Japan and the US first got together in December 2004, when they responded to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami with coordinated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The initial meeting among officials from the four countries happened on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila in 2007, followed by the first Quad naval exercise.

China’s opposition to Quad 1.0 was ‘swift and forceful’. The Chinese government sent a formal note of concern to the foreign ministries of the four countries in May 2007, William Tow recorded [1]. Beijing launched a campaign against the concept via Chinese academics, Tow wrote, and it ‘soon became nigh-on impossible to meet a Chinese foreign policy scholar without hearing a variant on why the Quad was bad’.

The Howard government qualified its support, murmuring that the Quad focus might be confined to trade and culture. Quad 1.0 was taking water, and it sank after the Rudd government was elected in November 2007.

Kevin Rudd devoted nearly two pages of his memoirs [2] to the reasons for reluctance about Quad 1.0. He denied that discontinuing it was appeasing China, instead pointing to the possibility of zigzags in the way New Delhi or Tokyo dealt with Beijing. ‘Australia would run the risk of being left high and dry as a result of future policy departures in Tokyo or Delhi. Indeed, that remains a danger through to this day,’ Rudd wrote.

Australia was already bound by what Rudd called the ‘far-reaching’ provisions of the ANZUS Treaty to support the US in the event of an armed attack on US forces in the Pacific. ‘Strengthening a bilateral alliance is one thing,’ he said. ‘Embracing a de facto quadrilateral alliance potentially embroiling Australia in military conflict arising from ancient disputes between Delhi, Tokyo and Beijing is quite something else.’

As for Quad 2.0, that got one Rudd sentence: ‘The extent to which political and strategic circumstances may have changed a decade later is another matter entirely.’

What changed—and hardened—was the way the Quad viewed China.

Returning as Japan’s prime minister in 2012, Shinzo Abe began work on the Quad’s second coming, describing it as a ‘democratic security diamond’ [3] that would be all about the maritime domain. Abe’s diamond image was based on ‘a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan, and the US state of Hawaii form a diamond to safeguard the maritime commons stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific’.

Just as diamonds are formed by high temperature and pressure, so the Quad bonds four democratic powers that feel the force and weight [4] of Asia’s coming power.

Asia’s strategic environment was witnessing one of the most important power shifts [5] in history, Anthony Bergin and David Lang wrote in 2014:

The biggest strategic question we face is not simply whether the future for our region will be one of war or peace: it’s also about the nature of that peace. Will it be a peace governed by rules and norms or a peace governed by power and coercion?

Bergin and Lang were writing on an ASPI project with Japan on strengthening the rule of law in the Asia–Pacific:

Australia and Japan share an interest in minimising the role that coercion plays in the Asia–Pacific and maximising cooperation across the region. We’re both liberal democracies, with a strong bilateral security relationship, an alliance with the United States and a genuine commitment to the rule of law.

The recommendations from the project read like a playbook for Quad 2.0: maritime security, rule of law in conflict-affected states, trade and economic cooperation, cyberspace and internet governance, airspace and outer space, the East Asia Summit, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Abe wanted Japan to be a ‘first tier’ country, Brad Glosserman wrote [6], but his administration could well be ‘peak Japan’ as a regional power. Two ‘lost decades’ had downsized Japan’s horizons and the demographic trajectory fed the increasingly inward focus of the Japanese people. Glosserman diagnosed a diminishing popular inclination to compete with China and a reluctance to embrace Abe’s ambitions:

Japan must be pushed to do more even while its partners remain conscious of the domestic circumstances that create resistance to such initiatives. Australia can play a key role in this effort. Canberra has emerged as Tokyo’s preferred security partner (after the US). The two governments have overcome a bitter and difficult history to forge a ‘special strategic partnership’ that reflects shared values and interests and includes an expanding institutional infrastructure with regular meetings of the two top leaderships, an array of security instruments and coordination with their alliance partner, the US.

Quad 2.0 was revived in 2017 during the East Asia Summit by Abe, Narendra Modi, Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull.

Times had changed and it was time to get the band back together.

ASPI’s Quad 2.0: New perspectives for the revived concept [7] noted that this second coming ‘has become one of the most debated and contested ideas in current geopolitics’.

Huong Le Thu surveyed Southeast Asian perceptions [8] of the Quad, collecting answers from government agencies, militaries, academia, think tanks, businesses, media and university students in all 10 ASEAN countries.

A majority opinion (57%) across ASEAN supported the initiative as having a useful role in regional security; only 10% of respondents opposed it. There were reservations that the ‘anti-China’ nature of the Quad was dangerous (19%), but more thought that ‘an anti-China bulwark’ was necessary (35%).

On challenges ahead for the Quad, the distribution of responses was even. The most popular answers were that the interests of the four nations may be too divergent for common actions (27%), the Quad was unclear about its own mission (24%) and the grouping would ‘provoke’ Beijing (22%).

‘Refreshingly,’ Le Thu wrote, ‘the study found that there isn’t much of a gap between the respondents from ASEAN countries and the Quad countries. Hence, there’s a level of “like-mindedness”—both in support for the Quad and in ambiguity about its future.’

The joint ‘vision statement’ [9] issued following the first Quad leaders’ summit in March 2021 ranged from vaccines on land to vessels at sea to ‘meet challenges to the maritime order in the East and South China Seas’.

Four disparate democracies could do much together, not least to reassure Southeast Asia that it had options (Quad-speak: ‘strong support for ASEAN’s unity and centrality’).

Michael Shoebridge commented that the Quad was developing as a working forum for leaders to generate momentum on practical actions [10]: ‘This may be what Beijing is most anxious about—a multilateral grouping that is action oriented and agile enough to provide new challenges to how China wants the world to work.’

Australia walked away from Quad 1.0 in 2008 [11] because it had high hopes about China and doubts about Japan and India; Canberra bet on Beijing rather than Tokyo and New Delhi. The terms of the race changed dramatically, the stakes are even higher, and Australia has put new wagers on Japan and India to reinforce its traditional bet on the US.

Quad 1.0 sunk, Rudd said, because the US and India weren’t keen and neither was Japan after Abe departed from his first term as leader in 2007.

Quad 2.0 arrived, Rudd commented, because Xi Jinping had ‘fundamentally altered [12] the landscape’ by projecting Chinese power. Strategic circumstances had ‘changed profoundly’ [13].

The mission of Quad 2.0 becomes more than patrolling the Indo-Pacific—the ambit of Quad ambition meets today’s angst and ambiguity.

Australia, India, Japan and the US are driven together as much as they’re naturally coming together.

For the Biden administration, the Quad puts an exclamation point on the shout that the US is back.

Ever seeking to anchor the US in Asia, Canberra and Tokyo now have another anchor point in New Delhi. The anchor image responds to a permanent reality: China will always be in Asia, while the US presence is always a choice Washington makes.

Choosing the Quad, the US is renewing its promise to the Indo-Pacific as much as joining with three fellow democracies.

The four democracies are present at the creation of Quad 2.0, but conception had much to do with China’s coercion.

Drawn from the book on the institute’s first 20 years: An informed and independent voice: ASPI, 2001–2021 [14].

Article printed from The Strategist: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au

URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/aspis-decades-quad-1-0-and-quad-2-0/

URLs in this post:

[1] William Tow recorded: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/import/Tangled_webs.pdf?VersionId=qNx_KPd.kgUKKNXH_WvPfFxtdXM2F6O8

[2] memoirs: https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781760556686/

[3] ‘democratic security diamond’: https://www.project-syndicate.org/onpoint/a-strategic-alliance-for-japan-and-india-by-shinzo-abe

[4] force and weight: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/power-asia-five-charts

[5] power shifts: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/import/SR75_Rules_based_order.pdf?VersionId=Hftu6BFd6.enxSH3O2qSHlTLwKj.kCeL

[6] Brad Glosserman wrote: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/import/SR86_Peak_Japan.pdf?VersionId=PadQZtTBAG1kn3OoM9rqk3H7vDRXH_sm

[7] Quad 2.0: New perspectives for the revived concept: https://www.aspi.org.au/report/quad-20-new-perspectives

[8] surveyed Southeast Asian perceptions: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/ad-aspi/2018-10/SR%20130%20Quadrilateral%20security%20dialogue.pdf?VersionId=Fm448sn_MfBnQebAdDv1bBqlKOu8iWud

[9] ‘vision statement’: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/quad-leaders-joint-statement-spirit-quad

[10] generate momentum on practical actions: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/leaders-summit-shows-the-quad-has-grown-up/

[11] walked away from Quad 1.0 in 2008: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-quantity-and-quality-of-quad-questions/

[12] ‘fundamentally altered: https://www.economist.com/asia/2020/11/19/an-indo-pacific-club-builds-heft

[13] ‘changed profoundly’: https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/The-Convenient-Rewriting-of-the-History-of-the-Quad

[14] An informed and independent voice: ASPI, 2001–2021: https://www.aspi.org.au/report/informed-and-independent-voice-aspi-2001-2021

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