October 5, 2021 | Policy Brief

A Unified and Capable “Quad” Is Bad News for the CCP

October 5, 2021 | Policy Brief

A Unified and Capable “Quad” Is Bad News for the CCP

The Australian, Indian, Japanese, and American heads of state met at the White House last month for the first-ever in-person “Quad” Leaders’ Summit. Pictures of the four leaders standing shoulder-to-shoulder likely created significant heartburn for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which knows that an increasingly unified and capable Quad will make it more difficult for Beijing to bully its neighbors and promote authoritarianism.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “Quad,” first arose in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It met again in 2007 but then remained dormant until 2017, when it reconvened with a renewed emphasis on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific by promoting the rule of law. While the Quad tends not to mention China in its statements, Beijing’s aggressive behavior has clearly been the primary driver of the Quad’s increasing unity and activity.

Last month’s Quad summit focused on a number of combined efforts that extend well beyond the traditional security sphere. A fact sheet released by the White House in conjunction with the summit highlighted the Quad’s efforts to increase the global availability of COVID-19 vaccines, promote high-standards infrastructure, combat climate change, and foster people-to-people exchanges.

However, a careful reading of official statements by Quad leaders along with associated press releases underscores the Quad’s vital and growing security cooperation in defense of a free and open Indo-Pacific. This includes cooperation in areas such as cybersecurity, semiconductor supply chains, and space.

To be sure, each of these areas has major commercial and civilian applications. Beijing’s explicit policy of military-civil fusion, however, makes such distinctions with respect to China virtually meaningless and even unhelpful. Moreover, in a potential military conflict with China, cyber and space would likely be prominent domains of warfare, and U.S. and partner weapon systems will depend on trusted semiconductors.

Perhaps that is why concerns related to China’s activities in these areas are not exclusive to the Quad. In the NATO Brussels Summit Communique this past June, all 30 members of the alliance expressed concern about the need to maintain a “technology advantage” and called on China to “act responsibly” in the space and cyber domains.

More broadly, the world’s democracies are vying with China to determine how technology will be used and which countries will most shape the international rules of the road.

Accordingly, during the summit last month, the Quad released a joint statement of “Principles on Technology Design, Development, Government, and Use,” emphasizing the Quad’s “shared democratic values and respect for universal human rights.” That was a not-so-subtle swipe at the CCP, which has increasingly used and exported technology as a means of authoritarian control, religious oppression, and censorship.

After the summit, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson lashed out, saying the Quad “will find no support and is doomed to fail.”

That response is fairly predictable. After all, Beijing prefers to deal with Indo-Pacific countries bilaterally in order to exploit power asymmetries as part of a divide-and-conquer approach. An increasingly effective Quad will make bullying more difficult for Beijing.

The photos from the Quad Leaders’ Summit last month sent a powerful message to Beijing, but if the four democracies are going to defend their shared interests in the Indo-Pacific against an increasingly aggressive CCP, a strong follow-up to the summit will be crucial.

Bradley Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where Zane Zovak is a research analyst. They also contribute to FDD’s China Program. For more analysis from the authors, CMPP, and the China program, please subscribe HERE. Follow Bradley on Twitter @Brad_L_Bowman. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CMPP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


China India Indo-Pacific Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy