The alliance known as the “Quad” was conceived after the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami, when the four countries came together to provide humanitarian assistance. It was formalized in 2007 by then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, before going dormant. Former U.S. President Donald Trump revitalized it in 2017, and it gained further momentum under the Biden administration.
On 20 May 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden met with his counterparts Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in Hiroshima for the fifth convening of the Quad Leaders' Summit on the sidelines of the G7 meetings.
While at the summit, a clip of Biden making following claim went viral: "I doubt many people in this audience or any other audience would have said that two years after being elected, I'd be able to convince India, Australia, Japan, and the United States to form an organization called the Quad to maintain stability in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea."
A Twitter account run by the Republican National Committee shared the clip in question, pointing out that Biden's statement was incorrect: "The Quad was re-established in 2017 under President Trump," the tweet said.
Biden did indeed claim he personally convinced the three other nations to form the Quad, as confirmed in the White House transcript of that event. RNC Research was correct in stating that the Quad alliance was not Biden's brainchild. It emerged over the previous few decades and was revitalized under the Trump administration.
What is the Quad? According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) January 2023 report on the Quad, it is a "four-country coalition, comprised of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia" and "claims a common platform of standing for a rules-based order, protecting freedom of navigation, and promoting democratic values in the region."
According to The Washington Post, the group began as a loose alliance in 2004 to coordinate relief efforts after a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. In 2007, then-Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe formalized the ties in the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. The group of nations met on the sidelines of the annual Asia-Pacific forum convened by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2007. But by the next year, the Quad fell apart, largely over concerns about alienating China.
In 2017, the Quad reemerged under the Trump administration, which took a more confrontational approach to China. The CRS report credited Trump with beginning revitalization efforts, adding that in 2020 (Trump's last year in power, and the year Biden won the presidency) the Quad's reemergence was "accelerated."
A 2020 Foreign Policy analysis of Trump's motivations stated: "the Quad today is defined less by what it stands for and more by what it opposes: China. The Trump administration has identified China as its primary adversary and therefore its top foreign-policy issue."
According to the CRS report, China's influence and military assertiveness continue to impact the motivations of the Quad, even under Biden. In its most recent joint statement in May 2023, the group made thinly veiled references to China's construction of bases on former offshore reefs, its harassment of non-Chinese vessels in international waters, and its economic leverage tactics over poorer countries.
The group said: "We strongly oppose destabilising or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion. [...] We express serious concern at the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coastguard and maritime militia vessels, and efforts to disrupt other countries' offshore resource exploitation activities."
China had already denounced the Quad in 2007, accusing it of undermining its interests. In 2018, China's foreign minister Wang Yi reacted to the group's revitalization effort with some scorn: "They are like the sea foam in the Pacific or Indian Ocean: they may get some attention, but soon will dissipate."
Despite Biden's attempt to take credit for bringing together Indian, Japanese, and Australian leaders to form the Quad, the evidence clearly shows that the alliance began in 2007, re-emerged under the Trump administration, and continued under the Biden administration.