Cancellation of Sydney summit an omen of Quad's future fate
Published: May 18, 2023 09:31 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The planned Quad summit in Sydney, scheduled for May 24, has been canceled as Biden is busy putting out the financial fire of a possible debt default at home. The leaders will meet later this week on G7 sidelines in Japan instead. But, even though the gathering continues, it won't be the same. The cancellation of the Sydney summit is an omen of Quad's fate. 

The planned summit was called off mainly because the US government is going broke. Interestingly, some Western media outlets make it about China, portraying the case as China's champagne moment. On Wednesday, the Guardian published an article, "The cancelled Quad summit is a win for China and a self-inflicted blow to the US' Pacific standing," which claimed "Chinese state media outlets won't need to muster much creative energy to weave together some of Beijing's preferred narratives: that the US is racked by increasingly severe domestic upheaval and is an unreliable partner, quick to leave allies high and dry."

The narrative only proves the media has nothing more to talk about Quad, experts said. Such high-level summit is supposed to have many "high-end" perspectives to dig, yet now the Western media has no alternative but to cover it as a farce with gossip. It shows the US government and Quad have little to deliver. If there could be any practical and substantial agenda and content, the focus won't be placed on guessing what China will say, Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times.

If Western observers still believe in Quad, their analyses should be full of content about innovative ways to contain China and make the West great again. There is no such wording, but only disappointment in the US. It is not just the US government which is facing a crisis, but is also Quad. After all, it won't be easy to boost something that goes against the trend of the times. 

Global economic recovery endures but the road is getting rocky, the IMF reported in April. Meanwhile, an increasing number of regional turmoil is rising. Yet the US makes no secret of its intention to exacerbate geopolitical conflicts and camp confrontation. Since the establishment of the Quad, their cooperation and statements have long revealed their unspoken target - China. And when people say a bump for Quad is a win for China, they just confess that Quad is a geopolitical tool against China. 

That mindset is simply too shallow. Quite a few Western observers are so used to gauging the heart of a gentleman with their own mean measure. All countries worldwide are facing a difficult time. China, as a responsible major country, is playing a stabilizing role, in pursuit of common development. But such good will and efforts from China alone aren't enough. China hopes that the US can also bear some responsibility instead of being driven by selfish calculations and only worrying that others may profit from the US' challenges, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times. 

Nevertheless, the Guardian does make one point right - the US should worry about its crumbling credibility. 

When calling off its participation in Quad Sydney summit, the US is just like someone who used to be loaded, going on a shopping spree, cramming the shopping cart, but suddenly realizes, on the way to the checkout counter, his credit card may be declined. In other words, the US is failing to financially afford its global strategic objectives, which not only require huge amount of money, but is also confrontation-centered and against the trend of the times, Lü said.  

And the expenses of US strategic objectives are not just shouldered by the US itself, but allotted to its allies. As the Guardian pointed out, the cancellation is a blow to the Australian host. "Officials had spent months extensively planning the huge logistical and security operation; last October's budget set aside $23m for the costs of hosting the summit," the report said. Now the investment is evaporated. 

Moreover, Lü said there is also growing discussion in Australia about whether the country is bearing the cost of an expensive mistake over the AUKUS submarine deal, and if Australia will realize development or just be exploited by the US. 

When more and more such discussions, speculations, and doubts emerge, the dynamic of Quad will only decline. The cancellation of the Sydney summit is a fatal blow to Quad, experts said. It also foreshadows the fate of other US-led anti-China cliques.