Oxford Debate: 'The Quad Is Part of the Debate, but Not a Driving Force'
Motion: China Is Right to Be Worried About the Quad
In this Oxford Debate, we are debating whether a strong Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between India, Japan, Australia and the U.S. is about to change the security balance in the region. Joining us are Cleo Paskal, Euan Graham, Pichamon Yeophantong, and Bruno Maçaes.
Our key takeaways:
Cleo Paskal argues: We are in an a completely new situation when it comes to the Quad: Covid-19 changed everything dramatically and so did the killing of the 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley. Especially the latter event completely changed the dynamics within India – in short: India is coming on board very quickly.
The Quad will never look like NATO – it will look like a dynamic, adaptable arrangement that is an alliance identified by people in the intelligence and defense communities but not necessarily by lawyers.
Pichamon Yeophantong counters: China possesses geostrategic influence and economic capabilities that allow it to treat the Quad as a minor actor since virtually every country in this region is bound up in complex ties of economic interdependence with China.
The point is not that the Quad doesn't have symbolic value – it does. But whether or not it can act on the symbolism and realize the task of shaping Chinese behavior is questionable. China is the one that determines how China behaves.
The Quad is a safety net, says Euan Graham, one that can be tightened or loosened depending on requirements – and a major variable in how it looks is China's behavior.
It’s not an alliance, but all four countries are bound by bi-lateral, logistical and access arrangements in the defense space – so it already has some of the infrastructure already of an alliance. Plus, the democratic foundation is a binding fact that brings coherence – one that China fears in ideological terms.
The Quad is more an idea than a reality, argues Bruno Maçaes: be it on Taiwan, Myanmar or the vaccine shortage in India, on every critical issue in the region the Quad has been missing. And when it comes to the question of the region’s future: the Quad is part of the debate, but not a driving force.
Watch the whole conversation above.
China is right to be worried about the Quad.
Arguing in favor of the motion
Cleo Paskal is a lapsed journalist who ended up in geostrategy. Her current affiliations include: Associate Fellow, Chatham House, London, UK; Non-Resident Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Washington, D.C.; Visiting Fellow, Centre d’études et de recherches internationales de l'Université de Montréal (CÉRIUM); International Board of Advisors, Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies, India; and International Board of Advisors, Global Counter Terrorism Council, India. She is widely published in the academic and popular press, is a regular media commentator and has briefed government departments in various countries around the world. She is research lead on Chatham House’s project on perceptions of strategic shifts in the Indo-Pacific from the points of view of the US, Japan, India, Oceania, the UK, France and China. She is terrible at karaoke.
Euan Graham is IISS Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security. Previously he was executive director of La Trobe Asia, at La Trobe University, in Melbourne. Between 2015 and 2018, he was director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Programme, in Sydney. Before, he worked as a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and as a Research Analyst in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the UK government for seven years. He has written and commented widely for international media on a range of Asia-Pacific security issues. His expertise ranges from Australia’s strategic policy, maritime strategy and security in the Asia-Pacific region, geopolitics of the Korean Peninsula and Japan, and the South China Sea.
Arguing against the motion
Bruno Maçaes is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Renmin University and a Senior Advisor at Flint Global in London. He was the Portuguese European Affairs Minister from 2013-2015, and was decorated by Spain and Romania for his services to government. He received his doctorate in political science from Harvard University, and was a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington and Carnegie in Brussels. He has written for the Financial Times, Politico, The Guardian and Foreign Affairs, and appears regularly on CNN, the BBC, Bloomberg, Al-Jazeera and CCTV. He is the author of The Dawn of Eurasia, Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order and most recently, History Has Begun.
Pichamon Yeophantong is an Australian Research Council Fellow and Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales (Canberra) at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She also convenes UNSW Canberra’s Asia-Pacific Development and Security Research Group, and is a non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Wong MNC Center. A political scientist and China specialist by training, she has conducted extensive field-based research in the region and is currently leading a multi-year project exploring the security dimensions of Chinese ‘economic influence’ in Southeast Asia. Prior to joining UNSW, Pichamon was a Global Leaders Fellow at the University of Oxford and Princeton University.
About Oxford Debates
The Oxford Debates at Asia Society Switzerland are a format to address ‘big’ questions that have no one answer or solution but are inviting many conflicting views. Four renowned experts in the field form teams of two, one team arguing for the motion, the other against it.
The Oxford-style format is broken down into four sections: opening remarks, rebuttals, a moderated question-and-answer session, and closing remarks. Before and after the debate the audience is polled whether they agree with the motion or not. The voting breakdown is not shared publicly until the end of the debate. The greater percentage change between the first and second votes determines the debate’s winning team.
Disclaimer: Positions presented in the debate do not necessarily represent the speakers’ views.