What is the Quad?

Among a flurry of policy initiatives implemented by the Biden administration, some of the most important have involved foreign policy. In a dramatic shift from Trump’s more isolation-era policies, Biden has announced that “America is back.” The President is hoping to resume America’s role as a leader on the world stage, renegotiating our relationship with countries from China to Iran. In the midst of all these renewals, Biden had a meeting with the leaders of the “Quad,” an organization familiar to a lot of people.

So, what exactly is the Quad? Officially titled the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the QSD, the Quad is an informal organization composed of the United States, Japan, Australia and India. Originally convening to deal with tsunami relief in 2005, and then having more meetings in 2007, the Quad broke apart in 2008 after Australia dropped out; however, in 2017, officials under the Trump administration conducted Quad meetings once more with the goal of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy. 

On March 12th, however, Biden kicked things up a notch when he convened the first ever head of state meeting (conducted virtually) to discuss a joint-vaccine policy. While in the past officials from all countries have met to discuss policy, this is the first time the leaders of all four countries met on an official basis. 

Officially, the goals of the Quad are fairly standard: they want to coordinate anti-terrorist actions in the region, as well as ensure trade protections. The unspoken reason for the formation of the group, however, is in response to an increasingly militant China: leading some to dub the group an “Asian NATO,” in reference to the Cold War-era alliance designed to combat the Soviet Union. All four countries have had issues with China in the past few years: the US-China trade war, a trade dispute with Australiaborder conflicts with India, and disputes over territory with Japan. Each country, therefore, has a vested interest in keeping China’s influence in the region restrained. 

China naturally takes issue with the Quad, accusing the US of trying to start a second Cold War. For now, however, the Quad is an informal alliance, a dialogue between four countries, rather than a formal alliance. If, however, China steps up its aggression or tension between the Quad and China continue to grow more hostile, than it’s possible the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue will become more than just a conversation.