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Quad offers destabilizing agenda of empty promises, coercion and division: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2023-05-22 19:44
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US President Joe Biden participates in a Quad Leaders' meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia, May 20, 2023, in Hiroshima, Japan. Kenny Holston/Pool via REUTERS

Although the Quad summit scheduled to open in Sydney on May 24 was canceled as US President Joe Biden had to return home for debt-ceiling negotiations with the speaker of the House of Representatives, the leaders of the four countries — Japan, Australia and India being the other three — still managed to hold a de facto summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Saturday.

As the long joint statement they issued on Sunday indicates, despite the meeting being arranged in a hurry and downsized to a brief roundtable talk, the third in-person meeting of the leaders still had a busy anti-China agenda to discuss. An agenda complicated by the fact that the onus is on Washington to prevent Sino-US relations from taking any misstep that might lead to a conflict.

It is for this reason that the Quad has stopped trying to coerce countries in the region to cut their ties with China. Instead, as the joint statement made clear, the Quad is trying to pull regional countries to its side.

To achieve this aim, the Quad has become more specific in its proposed cooperation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Pacific Islands Forum and the Indian Ocean Rim Association, offering support for their green and digital development, and to strengthen their responses to climate change and terrorism.

The joint statement shows the Quad has apparently done more homework than before as it has mentioned almost all the major initiatives, strategies, programs and plans these countries have put forward or have already implemented, collectively and individually, including the ASEAN Outlook on the "Indo-Pacific", the Pacific Island Forum's 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent and the Indian Ocean Rim Association Outlook on the "Indo-Pacific".

However, knowing these countries' concerns is far from enough to help them address them. Judging from the US' poor track record in matching its words with deeds in providing technology and funding when it comes to its assistance programs for the region, it remains to be seen to what extent the Quad will fulfill its grand promises this time.

That all countries in the region are mentioned in the joint statement, except China, the biggest economy, the largest trading country, the most important logistics hub and the biggest supporter of regional development, fully exposes the divisive nature of the Quad's proposed cooperation.

The countries the Quad intends to support should also be aware that while most of the assistance will only exist on paper, that which is provided will come with strings attached.

Also, it will only be a matter of time for Tokyo and Canberra to realize that the mechanism is just a harness Washington has imposed on them — India is more of a taker than a giver under the framework — so that they are put in a better position to pull the US chariot in the latter's "competition" with China.

According to their joint statement, as "Indo-Pacific" countries, the Quad partners are deeply invested in the region's success. If that is the case they should be working together with China not against it.

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