Quad’s plan is dam­ag­ingly di­vi­sive, de­spite the de­nials

China Daily (Canada) - - WORLD -

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports cit­ing an un­named se­nior US of­fi­cial, Aus­tralia, In­dia, Ja­pan and the United States, the so-called Quad, are re­port­edly look­ing at a joint re­gional in­fra­struc­ture plan to counter China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. The US of­fi­cial was quoted as say­ing that the pro­ject was on the agenda for talks be­tween US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull dur­ing the lat­ter’s visit to the United States later this week. Ap­par­ently, the pre­ferred ter­mi­nol­ogy is to call the plan an al­ter­na­tive to China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive rather than a ri­val.

“China might build a port which, on its own is not eco­nom­i­cally vi­able. We could make it eco­nom­i­cally vi­able by build­ing a road or rail line link­ing that port,” the US of­fi­cial was quoted as say­ing on Mon­day.

If that was re­ally what the Quad’s plan was all about, it would be wel­come, as fund­ing to ex­pand the con­nec­tiv­ity of Asia, Africa and Europe through im­proved in­fra­struc­ture never seems enough. China has al­ready in­vested more than $50 bil­lion in 20 coun­tries along the an­cient Silk Road trade routes, but it wel­comes other na­tions mak­ing their own con­tri­bu­tions and co­op­er­at­ing to pro­mote shared and sus­tain­able growth over the long term.

But whether the Quad is re­ally in­ter­ested in build­ing new roads, high-speed rail­ways and air­ports is ques­tion­able. Sim­ply call­ing the plan an al­ter­na­tive does not mean that is its pur­pose.

In­stead, the plan is an out­come of the tran­si­tion in the do­mes­tic poli­cies of the four coun­tries and the co­or­di­na­tion of their strate­gies to­ward what the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken to call­ing the In­doPa­cific re­gion.

In par­tic­u­lar, it ap­pears to be an ex­ten­sion of the Asia-Africa Growth Cor­ri­dor be­ing pro­moted by In­dia and Ja­pan, which serves only to high­light the shared anx­i­eties the four coun­tries have about China’s rise and the progress of its Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. And, per­haps more per­ti­nently, the com­mon sense of pur­pose they have dis­cov­ered in seek­ing to counter what they all seem to con­sider a threat to their in­ter­ests.

By boost­ing the com­merce be­tween China and the more than 60 coun­tries in­volved, the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is fur­ther shift­ing the cen­ter of grav­ity of the global econ­omy to China. As a re­sult, the four coun­tries have all changed their stances to­ward China from en­gage­ment to strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion in a bid to main­tain their ad­van­tages.

So, rather than be­ing an al­ter­na­tive, the plan be­ing pur­sued by the Quad is in­stead in­tended to dis­place China’s ini­tia­tive.

Yet, given the in­ter­de­pen­dence of economies to­day, rather than im­ple­ment­ing a plan that would only prove to be dam­ag­ingly di­vi­sive, the Quad should seek to im­ple­ment one that is truly com­ple­men­tary to the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, as that would be more re­ward­ing, not only for them­selves but for all.

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