Mar 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden meeting Quad amid own pivot toward Asia

Artists are seen painting portraits of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Mumbai, India.

Artists paint portraits of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Mumbai, India. Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

President Biden plans to meet this month with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India in a virtual summit of the so-called Quad, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: By putting a Quad meeting on the president’s schedule, the White House is signaling the importance of partnerships and alliances to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Biden has spoken with each leader individually, but putting them together gives an early boost to the burgeoning group, which some have suggested could grow into an Asian version of NATO.
  • Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined a virtual summit of Quad foreign ministers.
  • They offered a veiled criticism of China by pledging “to strongly oppose unilateral and forceful attempts to change the status quo in the context of the East and South China Sea.”
  • The White House declined to confirm the upcoming meeting.

The big picture: The Quad, a security dialogue among four of the region’s biggest democracies, was first established in 2007. It quickly lost its luster, in part because Australia and India were reluctant to take any action that might antagonize China.

  • The Trump administration embraced the Quad concept, as the four countries grew more comfortable coordinating their security postures and more concerned about China’s rise.
  • One month before the 2020 election, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to a summit in South Korea to rail against China’s “exploitation, corruption and coercion.”

Between the lines: President Obama implemented the "Pivot to Asia," complementing the United States' traditional focus on European alliances with new ones in the Pacific region.

  • President Trump abandoned his predecessor's Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal but embraced the Quad.
  • Now, Biden is carrying on. After he spoke with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February, the White House said the leaders would work toward “a stronger regional architecture through the Quad.”
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