The leaders of the various Quad countries have conducted numerous diplomatic gatherings throughout the past year. A recurrent underlying theme throughout the sessions was the extended focus on the Indo-Pacific region as a whole. Topics discussed at the meetings ranged from the role of the Quad in the Indo-Pacific region to regional economic/trade challenges.
Along with the US, the Indo-Pacific region's three nations (India, Australia and Japan) constitute the Quad, in which technology cooperation has played a significant role in bringing the four states together. China continues to play a crucial role in how these nations formulate their responses and international strategies when it comes to the Indo-Pacific. It is clear that China has advanced to the point where it is now influencing the region technologically. Beijing's diplomatic goals have benefited from the private sector's success in some critical technical fields, which has been aided by ongoing governmental backing.
The Chinese government has looked to its domestic technology giants in addition to its most important foreign policy initiative, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to strengthen its diplomatic ties around the world and increase its technological footprint. It is essential that one state/private organisation does not control the market and stifle technological advancement in important industries in the age of geopolitical consequences of technology ecosystems. Through its Digital Silk Roads initiative, China has already succeeded in capturing continents like Africa by convincing these countries to adopt Chinese technology.
States in the South, South East, and East Asia have a chance to avoid slipping into China's "technology debt trap," which would essentially give China and its corporations a lot of influence. The Quad nations are technologically advanced and rising powers in the Indo-Pacific region. It is also interesting that the Quad nations, each of which has comparative advantages that can aid in containing the Chinese juggernaut, are moving toward establishing a strong alliance and credible technical cooperation.
In the current political environment, it is crucial for China's competitors to decouple essential technological supply chains from nations like China. Modern commercial and military applications increasingly rely on critical software and networked technologies like telecommunications, the Internet of Things, and quantum, in addition to hardware supply chains like semiconductors. The influence and control that China might have over smaller countries can be lessened by keeping Chinese businesses and their technologies out of other states' technological ecosystems.
Setting Standards in AI
The Quad, especially the regional parts of the grouping—India, Japan, and Australia—have a variety of technological strengths and specialities that, when combined, can create a powerful alternative to anything a Chinese corporation might have to offer.
Japan, a country known for its intellectual prowess, demonstrated in its Fifth Science and Technology Basic Plan its dedication to the development of emerging technologies. The official Artificial Intelligence Technology Strategy, produced by the Japanese government, is centred on the nation's AI R&D and industrialisation strategy. In order to boost technological competitiveness and gain the upper hand in the geopolitical power dynamics, the administration also emphasised the importance of AI innovation.
With the signing of an MoU to advance AI cooperation between the two nations, the Indian government has selected Japan as one of the crucial partners in developing future AI solutions. Australia has also pushed for the active involvement of its foreign ministry in developing and establishing technical AI and IoT standards. Australia has taken the lead in highlighting the importance of AI technology standards and has published an official document on it, arguing for a plurilateral approach. The three nations may work together to set the benchmark for future governance of emerging technologies by combining their technological expertise and commitment to creating relevant standards.
Breaking the Huawei Telecom Monopoly
With Huawei's success as a domestic telecom juggernaut in the 5G era, China scored a home run. China and Huawei currently jointly own the largest number of 5G-related patents and technological standards. With firms like Huawei and ZTE establishing communication networks in nations in Central Asia and Africa, China has solidified its position in the telecommunications industry as a result. Other Indo-Pacific countries may become unduly dependent on Chinese telecom technology due to the lure of low costs, subsidised equipment, and quicker access to modern communications technologies like 5G.
The Quad nations have a significant impact here. India has entered the world of communication standards after receiving clearance from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for its very own homegrown 5G technology standard, the 5Gi. The regional 5G standard was created to enhance connectivity and reach in India, which can serve as a template for other nations in the area. Even though it is still early, India may use its booming telecom sector to create new, more suitable technology for the Indo-Pacific area. Numerous of its telecom behemoths, including Jio and Airtel, are also members of the Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN) alliance, which collaborates to develop 5G technological alternatives.
Rakuten, a leading provider of communications services in Japan, has also based its current 5G network on O-RAN technological specs and is actively working with other Indian tech firms on both their hardware and software. Although the three nations have the required expertise in 5G, they must rely on hardware, specifically telecom equipment made by US and European corporations and technical standards established by both US and Chinese firms.
A strong alliance between the three nations (along with the US and the Quad) can aid in the establishment of manufacturing facilities for telecom equipment and specialised technical professionals to create alternative 5G standards. By doing so, the reliance on Chinese technology can be lessened and serve as a model for countries in the Indo-Pacific.
In order to prevent other countries from falling into the Chinese technology trap, the expansion of China and its influence in important technology industries have prompted measures to equal and offer genuine alternatives. To check the Indo-Pacific region from becoming reliant on Chinese technology infrastructure, the Quad can collaborate to develop new technologies and produce substitutes for crucial ones that China has exported.