Will the QUAD go the same way as SEATO and just become irrelevant?

May 18, 2023
QUAD leaders wave for the camera in Tokyo, May 2022

President Biden sends an odd message in being unable to attend the QUAD meeting in Sydney. But at least there will be no opportunity to announce new US bases to attack China from Australia.

It reveals again how dysfunctional the US has become, not only in endless wars abroad but a broken Congress and a stacked Supreme Court at home.

The domestic polling in the US is disastrous for Biden. Trump will increasingly influence the US debate. So Biden will stay close to his home base.

Biden’s absence should provide an opportunity for Anthony Albanese to pause and think more seriously about QUAD, its future and the dangerous company we are keeping.

QUAD may go the way of SEATO – a paper tiger that lasted from 1954 until its inglorious end in 1977.

The QUAD was launched in 2007 in Tokyo by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. It made little progress but was resuscitated when Abe returned to power in 2017.

Some commentators have described the QUAD as Abe’s great achievement and Anthony Albanese has described Shinzo Abe as a giant on the world stage. But was he?

Abe and his faction was known for its anti-Chinese stance. That hostility to China comes as no surprise. Abe inherited that view from his grandfather, Noboru Kishi, a former prime minister of Japan who was indicted for war crimes for his activities during WWII in Manchuria. Yes, Kishi became Prime Minister despite his record!

With the US at his back, Japan through Abe and others have been able to indulge their anti-China sentiment. Japan is the spear-carrier for the US in North Asia like Australia is becoming in the South. Japan is often described as an unsinkable US Aircraft Carrier.

So Japan, under the influence of Abe and others in Japan, has been a keen supporter of the anti-China QUAD ‘alliance’.

Another member of QUAD is India which, unlike Japan, has had a long tradition of non-alignment. It is close to Russia. Last December Modi and Putin signed 28 agreements between them covering investment, technical transfer, energy and defence. India intends to purchase copies of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system. India has joined with Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa in BRICS. India has not joined the sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. It has abstained from voting on several UN resolutions criticising Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Against that background, India looks an odd member of an anti- China alliance. As Paul Keating has put it – it’s hard to see the Indian navy confronting China in the South China Sea. He described the QUAD as ‘strategic nonsense’ and a ‘waste of time’.

The key member of QUAD is the US which projects its military power against China in the numerous military bases in Japan, ROK and Diego Garcia that ring China. No wonder China feels threatened.

QUAD has a very mixed membership and like SEATO it has some very serious problems.

QUAD does not include most Asian countries and ASEAN in particular. Indonesia is not a member.

Despite the inclusion of India, it gives the impression of the developed western world telling Asian countries what is best for them.

It is more a reflection of fear of China than anything else and the US fear of losing its pre-eminence to China. It doesn’t do anything to bridge or diminish gaps or differences.

If the QUAD does anything useful it should be seeking to do it in collaboration with China and not in opposition to it.

SEATO was established at the behest of the US in 1954. It was designed for the containment of China and communist influence in South East Asia, but the Philippines and Thailand were the only South East Asian countries to join. Pakistan was the only other Asian country. SEATO was dominated by outsiders- the US, UK, France, NZ and Australia. Those outsiders contributed 75% of SEATO’s civilian and military budget.

QUAD looks to have many of the features of the failed SEATO. It doesn’t contain significant South East Asian countries. It looks more and more like the paper tiger that SEATO turned out to be. The QUAD lacks regional support and a common purpose. It has a lot of meetings but little substance.

There is a pattern in all this – our loss of sovereignty to the US. QUAD is just another example of our  ‘vassal’ status.

We recently had the United States Studies Centre authoring our tainted Defence Strategic Review and our Department of Defence secretly employing US Admirals.

This  comes on top of US bases at Pine Gap, Darwin and Tindal, the Force Posture Agreement,AUKUS and much more including ‘interoperability, and interchangeability’ of our militaries.

There may however be one unspoken blessing from the cancellation of the Biden visit . The last Presidential visit was by Obama in 2014 when he and Julia Gillard announced the rotation/stationing of US Marines in Darwin. So began the rapid military colonisation by the US of Northern Australia.


This is an updated article from October 21, 2022

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