Thursday, Jul 07, 2022

Quad Summit: China Urges Indo-Pacific Countries To Reject 'Military Block', 'Camp Confrontation'

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said countries in Indo-Pacific should draw a big question mark and see through Quad's hidden plot.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi AP

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday lashed out at the Quad leaders' summit in Japan's Tokyo and said countries in the region should reject the attempt for a military bloc or camp confronation.

On the eve of the summit, Wang said the region should "unswervingly maintain peace and stability, adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and unequivocally reject any attempt to introduce military bloc or camp confrontation into the Asia-Pacific region", as per the state-run CGTN.

India and fellow Quad members use the term "Indo-Pacific" for the region, which Wang called "Asia Pacific".

"The peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region is not only about the fate of the region, but also about the future of the world," said Wang in a virtual address to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

Officials from the Quad nations have clarified in the past that it's not a military alliance like NATO but a partnership for a shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region, most notably by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken told CNN-News18 in an interview last year,"That Quad is not a military alliance. It is a group of like-minded democracies. India, the United States, Japan, Australia, coming together to work cooperatively on issues and matters that are going to affect the lives of citizens and all of our countries and indeed, in the Indo Pacific as a whole and beneath that is the conviction that the Indo Pacific needs to remain a free and open region."

On Sunday, Wang launched a broadside against the Indo-Pacific strategy of the US, saying that it is "bound to fail" as it is vigorously promoted by Washington to "contain" Beijing.

The "Indo-Pacific strategy" is causing more and more vigilance and concern in the international community, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, said Wang while responding to a question at his joint press conference with the visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Guangzhou on Sunday.

Wang's comments came ahead of the Quad summit to be held in Tokyo on Tuesday in which US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his counterparts from Japan and Australia will take part.

Wang also attacked the "Indo-Pacific Economic Framework" (IPEF) launched by Biden in Tokyo a day ahead of the Quad summit in the presence of Modi and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The rollout of the IPEF came as part of Washington's efforts to push forward a strong economic policy for the Indo-Pacific to counter China's aggressive strategy on trade in the region.

IPEF appears to be an effort towards building an alternative for China in the economic sphere in the region, particularly as Chinese investments often end up turning into debt trap for host countries.

Outlook's Seema Guha noted in an article,"With China’s growing economic clout in Asia and around the world, the US is now keen to meet the Chinese dragon at its doorstep. The idea is to gradually build an alternative system to compete with China."

The countries that have joined the US-led initiative are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

China, like countries in the region, is happy to see initiatives conducive to strengthening regional cooperation, but it opposes the plot to create a split confrontation, Wang said.

"First of all, we must draw a big question mark and see through the hidden plot behind it," he said.

First, free trade should be promoted, and protectionism in disguise should not be pursued, he said. 

Meanwhile, India is expected to maintain its autonomy and continues to be cautious about the US-proposed IPEF for the sake of its own interests despite being an initial signatory, said Chinese analysts.

Although Quad is a bloc designed to form a united front against China in the Indo-Pacific region, India would also prefer a benign agenda to develop in the region, rather than completely turning adversarial toward China, the state-run Global Times newspaper quoted unnamed analysts as saying. 

Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies, Shanghai Institute for International Studies, pointed out that the IPEF is a haphazard work in the first place and has never been seriously thought over in the US. The document is mostly an instrument that will allow the US to pursue its goals of attracting more allies to counter China, Zhao was quoted as saying by the Chinese newspaper.

(With PTI inputs)