Eye on China is a weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom from an Indian interests perspective. This week we cover developments related to the Quad, China’s economic policy, tech sector developments, Wang Yi’s trip to Myanmar, the Sino-US deal and much more.
I. 2+2 = Quad
In September this year, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was upgraded to a foreign minister level discussion. Over the past week or so, there’s been another shift, which suggests closer cooperation is in the offing among the four members. On November 30, India and Japan held their first 2+2 dialogue, i.e., a platform that brings defence and foreign minister from both sides together for talks. This week India and Australia held their third secretary-level 2+2 dialogue.
Anirban Bhaumik reports in Deccan Herald that Indian and Australian officials discussed the possibility of inking a bilateral agreement that would set the framework for the armies, navies and air-forces of India and Australia sharing military logistics. A similar Indo-Japanese agreement – Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) – was likely to be signed during Japanese PM Shinzo Abe visit to India on December 15. But now given the violence following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, his trip has been cancelled.
And next week, India and the US will be holding the second ministerial level 2+2 dialogue in Washington. It’s being reported that talks in DC will lead to the signing of the Industrial Security Annex, which will allow US companies to share sensitive, proprietary defence technology with Indian private companies and not just with Indian state-owned partners.
So how should we assess this? Well, this report by Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury and Manu Pubby in ET says: “Cautioning that the agreements should not be seen in the context of the Quad initiative, the officials said that individual relations with the nations have progressed to a level where increasing bilateral activity requires such pacts.”
Here are some recent views from China. Qian Feng, director of research department of National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University, writes: “Although there have been marked improvements in China-India and China-Japan relations, the biggest concern for Japan and India is still how to balance the power structure in Asia, especially as China is rising rapidly and the US is emphasizing ‘America First.’”
Another view to note is this one by Zhao Minghao, a senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute, which was published in September. “Although the upgrade of Quad might make Beijing uneasy, it is not surprising, because this is partly a result of the deepened US-China strategic competition. Most Chinese observers believe that there is no need to overreact, and the key to handling the Quad is to be more active in dealing with India, Japan and Australia.”
Here’s another: “Although India has been vigilant about China’s relations with Pakistan and other South Asian countries, it doesn’t blindly follow the US strategy. New Delhi has realized that keeping benign relations with Beijing is more important than being a part of US Indo-Pacific Strategy and that it shouldn’t consolidate, at its own cost, US dominance in the world order.”