Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo

Four countries of the strategic dialogue named Quadrilateral Security Dialogue حوار أمني رباعي, also known as Quad, the United States, Japan, Australia and India, held its first summit meeting by the 4 heads of government on March 12.

In the joint statement, four countries reiterated their commitment to the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful settlement of disputes, democratic values and territorial integrity. It reaffirmed their shared basic values and commitment to maintaining a free and open international order based on the rule of law.

Quad, a recently revived framework and long being seen in skeptical eyes, sometimes described sarcastically as a mere “talking shop” is quickly taking concrete shapes.

Before it’s election and inauguration, President Biden and Democratic administration have been feared by some commentators in East Asian allies of the United States to be lenient to China, easily allured to appeasement policy.

As if to dispel this anxiety shared among East Asian allies, the Biden administration stepped up the pressure calling for China to abide by the rule and norms of international order in the existing sense, not in China’s unilateral definitions.

One of the concrete steps Quad countries took was the proposed joint vaccine partnership program which will accelerate manufacturing, distribution and vaccination. This partnership will counter China’s “vaccine diplomacy” in which it uses as the China-made vaccines to the pandemic which originated from China as a diplomatic tool for aligning developing countries.  

The Quad Vaccine Partnership, together with Quad Climate Working Group and Quad Critical and Emerging Technology Working Group, forms a small but a clear step to show the united effort to shape the new world order after the COVID-19 crisis.

In the March 14 opinion piece titled “Our Four Nations are Committed to a Free, Open, Secure and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region” which was contributed to the Washington Post jointly by the name of 4 leaders of Quad countries, a Trans-Indo-Pacific cooperation in the face of global disaster is declared.

In a swift move to follow through this initiative, on March 16, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin chose Tokyo as their first destination for their first in person meetings at foreign ministerial level overseas since the inauguration of the Biden administration and held 2+2 and other meetings. After the meetings, the US Secretary of State criticized China’s “coercion and aggression” in Asia and expressed its resolve to push back. This series of events showed how deterring China, which is increasingly aggressive in the eyes of its neighbors, became high in its place in the US foreign policy priority.