The Biden administration still finds China a strategic and a world threat that should be countered. After launching the AUKUS military alliance, the US boosts its efforts by joining the virtual meeting of Quad, being composed of India, Japan, and Australia. Adding to the military cooperation in the Southeast Asia region, Quad aims to establish economic and political cooperation in an attempt to contain the rise of China.
What is the Quad?
The virtual meeting marks the first meeting among the four countries together. The Quad, also known as QSD “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue” is a strategic dialogue between the US, India, Japan, and Australia, the US’s main allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The dialogue was first initiated in 2007 by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. The Quad is a grouping of the largest and oldest democracies in the world, that represents 40% of the total global economy.
It started as an informal grouping after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami as an attempt to coordinate work relief of the disaster. Now and since 2007, the grouping became a specter of China.
According to China, the Quad is referred to as the “Asia NATO”. China speculates that the US wants to replicate the NATO model, that used to counter the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War, in Asia.
The US still uses an old and traditional approach when dealing with its global competitors. It continues to function with a Cold-War mentality, that might be incompatible with the 21st Century pace.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian criticized the Quad, saying: “A closed, exclusive clique targeting other countries runs counter to the trend of the times and the aspirations of regional countries. It will find no support and is doomed to fail.”
On the contrary, China was able to establish itself as a superpower using tools and techniques that the US could be lacking, qualifying it to rise peacefully.
What is the “Rare Earths” Economic Deal?
The four leaders discussed different topics as the Covid-19 Pandemic, climate change, clean energy, and space.
Worth noting is that the Quad is a containment strategy against China. Hence, the leaders planned to cooperate on funding new production technologies and development projects for “rare earths”, to reduce the dependency on China. It is an attempt to counter China in the “rare earths” sector.
“It’s more like a tone-setting meeting today for the four nations to team up for rare earths as they have realized the need to secure supply, but uncertainties loom in the implementation period,” Liu Enqiao said, a senior energy analyst at Beijing-based Anbound Consulting.
Rare Earths, also called rare earth elements or rare earth metals, is a group of 17 chemical elements of silvery-white soft heavy metals used in high-tech consumer electronic and military equipment.
China plays a dominant role in this regard. According to the US Geological Survey, China accounted for 58% of rare earth production worldwide in 2020, down from around 90 percent some four years ago as the US and Australia have gradually boosted their own production.
The four leaders decided that India and Australia are responsible for exporting rare earths, while the US and Japan are responsible for the production.
However, according to analysts, it is very hard to challenge and shake the reliance on China. China has proved proficiency in this sector and will still be an important supplier in the system.
Moreover, if India and Australia play the role of exporters, it will not be sustainable.
“Each nation has its own interests to prioritize. For Australia and India, if they only play the role of rare-earth exporters instead of considering the practical market interests, it would not be sustainable,” Liu noted.
Therefore, it is expected according to the analysts that the Quad, as an economic alliance, would not be efficient to counter and contain China.
“China has invested substantially in improving its refining technology over the past years, forging a definite advantage in this regard. The West currently lacks the relevant talent pool and efficiency to compete with China, plus they face much higher costs to do by themselves instead of importing,” said Chen Zhanheng, deputy head of the Association of China Rare Earth Industry.
As China has no intentions to countermeasure any country, the US would always consider any move by China as a threat to its existence and stability.