The leaders of the United States, India, Japan and Australia attending the Quad meeting in Washington DC was bully-boy tactic against China a la Donald Trump, believes Nicholas Hope, director, Stanford Center for International Development.
Hope, who has directed the SCID’s China research program and hosted the SCID India conference as well, spoke to indica News about his perception of the meeting.
“My concern about the Quad is that it was so directly confrontational. I think, a much better approach would have been to try and join China into this group,” he said.
“And it strikes me as ludicrous that the Biden administration is trying to cherrypick inside China… well, we’re gonna need your help on climate and we’re going to need your help on the pandemic, and we might get your help with refugees and many other things…
“But it has become a bully boy tactic,” he said is disappointed. “You do what we want. And, of course, in the Trump case not just China, that brings our European allies and Canada in the mix.”
‘China’s rise is inevitable’
China is the world’s second-largest economy behind the US, Hope pointed out.
He said that amid “the inevitable rise of China to be the biggest economy in the world today… [President Joe Biden is] talking about… oh, you know, it’s a bit of a standoff, like the Cold War. And as he admitted himself, he didn’t appreciate the strength of the constraints. The Chinese are so enormously integrated now into the global economy.”
If push came to shove, Hope said, the Europeans, probably also Australia and Japan “would be put into a terribly difficult situation”.
He said if it came an either/or choice on trade with trade or with the US, for the ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] countries that decision would probably go towards the Chinese outcome, by necessity.
“It would be crippling to their economies to be told that they have to decouple from China,” Hope said.
“It’s something that the US has seen in the Trump policies and now in the Biden administration,” Hope said.
India versus China?
Asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the Quad meeting meant India had become more vulnerable, Hope said: “I don’t think the Chinese will go out of their way to antagonize India.”
He added: “I mean, to the extent that they think that territorial claims… are threatened by nothing.”
He said he believed that China has its commercial interests at heart and would like to see India liberalize its trade regime and allow Chinese businessmen more access to the Indian market.
“If you ask if China is a threat to Quad countries, I would have said ‘not necessarily’. But the trouble is by setting up the Quad, you do establish a confrontational situation,” Hope said.
“And the Chinese can only respond to that by saying, this is a threat to our sovereignty and we need military security and we need to take appropriate actions.”
Hope said: “I would like to try and say that there is a need to have an agreement in the in the Indo-Pacific region. We make the region safe for trade and we make sure that we don’t have any pirates or terrorism or various other nasty things to just serve as security, and we can take good responsibility for this.”
Hope said he believed China would certainly try to establish influence with the Taliban.
“But I think they’re trying to establish commercial relations, I think they’ll try and invest in Afghanistan. As I said, I think they would like to encourage goodwill. But they will endeavor to ensure that the Taliban does not actively promote insertions or various sorts of activity to destabilize the western province of China.”
What can Biden do?
Hope said President Biden would have to be very articulate and effective in communicating what America wants.
“I think they [China] want to be respected as equal,” Hope said. “They certainly don’t want the US to learn how to run their country, and what they need to look like. And then I’ve seen no sign that China wants to start a war.”
However, Hope said: “I am concerned…. that Xi Jinping wants to ensure that Taiwan is back in the fold…. I’m hoping that wiser heads will prevail and that they will continue to just let the countries grow ever closer economically and not trying to resolve the political situation until that becomes clear what the solution actually would be.”
If China decides to take Taiwan through an invasion, he added, “that would put terrible pressure on the US to respond. But you know I just have to pray that sort of thing doesn’t happen.”