An Indo-Pacific club builds heft

WHEN AMERICA, Australia, India and Japan met in 2007 for a “quadrilateral dialogue” on security matters, many bet the new grouping would fizzle, despite acquiring the much snappier title of “the Quad”. Once non-aligned India, still suspicious of anything that smacked of an alliance, was non-committal, but in the end it was Australia, discomfited by China’s prickly reaction, that was the first to break ranks. What has changed, says Kevin Rudd, a former prime minister of Australia, is that President Xi Jinping has since “fundamentally altered the landscape” by projecting Chinese power across Asia and the Pacific.

And so, since 2017, the Quad is back. All four members have seen their relationship with China deteriorate. Chinese incursions around islands that Japan controls but that China claims in the East China Sea have grown ever more frequent and forceful. Australia faces Chinese restrictions on all manner of exports, from punchy Barossa Shirazes to coking coal, following its call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a high-altitude border stand-off since the spring, resulting in the first fatal clashes in 45 years.

Last month, in Tokyo, foreign ministers from the Quad met for the second time. The public statements are anodyne. Who could...

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