The Quad

No, I’m not talking about the square at your university. Back in November, I pointed out that one of the key unknowns for the next four years was going to be Biden’s stance on China (“What will a Biden presidency mean?”, newsletter #52). We’re starting to get answers to that question. In addition to his support for federal subsidies into the semiconductor industry, and his planned continuation of Trump-era anti-China-technology policies, another Trumpism that is being carried forward — indeed, strengthened — is the Quad. Initially informally constructed as a unified response to the tsunami problem in 2004, the Quad is an alliance of the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia. After 2004, the group engaged in a few other activities, but it basically was never formalised until the Tump administration revived it in 2017 at the working level, to form a coalition of the “willing and capable” in the Indo-Pacific region. It was unclear how much staying power the organisation would have (up until a few months ago, neither Japan nor India would officially use the term “Quad”), but now that it’s survived a transition of party-level power in the U.S.; and, indeed, has seen meetings elevated to the ministerial level, it’s become rather “real”. And while ostensibly the Quad is in no-way there to constrain China — in fact, they’ve already put forth a very positive vision for the region — the reality is that everyone, including China, knows that there is a subtext here.

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