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Members Of Quad Summit Will Discuss Ways To Counter China's Rise

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden is hosting the leaders of Japan, Australia and India at the White House today. The so-called Quad summit involves four key democracies that are teaming up to try and counter China's rise. We're going to go to two of our international correspondents about this. Anthony Kuhn covers Japan and the Asia-Pacific region. He joins us now from NPR's bureau in Seoul, South Korea. Anthony, thanks for being here.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: And we've also got NPR correspondent Lauren Frayer, who covers India and the Indian Ocean region. Hey, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi there.

MARTIN: So this is all about China, right, guys? So what exactly are these four countries worried about?

FRAYER: Well, there is a perception that China has really challenged maritime sovereignty in the Indo-Pacific. It's built commercial ports across the world, but it's also built military installations on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. And that's a key waterway and a trade route. I mean, trillions of dollars in U.S. trade alone passes through there every year. And so a lot of these Quad countries see that as a threat to free trade and possibly even travel.

Aside from that, all of these countries have other tensions with China. India shares a long border with China. Troops have fought there. Australia has had trade disputes with China. Japan and China both lay claim to some islands in the East China Sea. And the U.S., of course, has had a trade war with China under President Trump.

But we should note that all of this anti-China stuff isn't totally explicit. So you may not actually hear President Biden named China very much today. And that's because all of these countries still trade a whole lot with China. And this is sensitive. China doesn't love the idea of these countries ganging up and talking about it behind its back.

MARTIN: Well, then, on that note, Anthony, how does China see this meeting? How are they reacting?

KUHN: Well, Beijing has made it clear that it sees the Quad as part of the U.S.'s overall strategy to encircle, contain and thwart China's rise using its Cold War alliance network, and it claims that the Quad basically only serves to heighten tensions in the region. I think what's becoming increasingly clear in recent months is that China's leadership is preparing for what it believes is going to be a long-term struggle with the U.S., but one in which it believes it has the upper hand.

So when the Biden administration says we can - the U.S. can collaborate with China on things like COVID and climate change, they can compete on economic issues, but that the U.S. may have to confront China on security issues, you know, Beijing says you can't compartmentalize this relationship. You cannot confront us on one thing and expect cooperation on another. And they've made that clear to Biden administration officials who have visited China recently.

MARTIN: OK. So Anthony, you've spent a lot of time reporting on China and Japan. Walk us through how this looks from the Japanese perspective.

KUHN: Well, Japan's mistrust and sense of threat from China has been growing for years. But Japan has a post-war pacifist constitution, which does not allow it to send troops to fight overseas. But it is an economic powerhouse, and it's already building a lot of the infrastructure in Asia. So Tokyo and Washington want to team up to provide what they consider an alternative to Chinese-built infrastructure in Asia, which they feel make may make these countries beholden to Beijing.

And they also want to build 5G networks and semiconductor plants, partly because these are strategic commodities, but also because they feel that these Chinese products could allow China to snoop or eavesdrop on other countries. The thing I think to remember, though, is that these are businesses' decisions to be made by individual countries. And if they feel that China's offering a better deal, they may go with Beijing.

MARTIN: Well, you know, last week we reported on this new submarine deal between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. And that was about China, too, right? I mean, is the Quad yet another defense pact?

KUHN: Well, the U.S. explicitly states that it is not a military pact. Unlike, for example, NATO, no country has committed any troops to the Quad. And while the U.S. has military alliances with these individual countries, like Japan and Australia, there's no collective defense agreement.

FRAYER: And actually India, if I can jump in here...

MARTIN: Yeah.

FRAYER: ...Isn't even technically a U.S. ally. There is no treaty between India and the U.S. And so India has historically been pretty resistant to joining alliances. So rather than a defense pact, the Quad is more of, like, a loose strategic grouping.

MARTIN: So a loose strategic grouping - they're getting together. Is anything concrete expected to come out of this summit?

FRAYER: Well, the Quad has pledged to produce a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022. India is where they'll be manufactured. Now, India's had a really tough year with COVID itself. We may hear a status update on those vaccine orders. We may hear fresh promises about climate change, about reducing coal use and moving toward renewable energy. India is a center of that, too. It's got a huge, growing population and huge energy demands. And as Anthony explained, semiconductors, supply chains for critical technology - those are supply chains that the U.S. really wants to keep China out of.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's international correspondents Lauren Frayer and Anthony Kuhn. Thanks to you both.

FRAYER: Thank you.

KUHN: Thanks, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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