China has sharply rebuked NATO, calling what it called “Cold War thinking and ideological bias”, after the Western military bloc said Beijing posed “serious challenges” to global stability.
NATO allies agreed for the first time to include the challenges and threats posed by China in a strategic plan at their latest summit in Madrid this week. The alliance’s previous document, released in 2010, made no mention of China.
In his new strategic conceptNATO said tackling the “systemic challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China to Euro-Atlantic security” and the “deepening of the strategic partnership” between China and Russia would now be among its top priorities .
Beijing was furious with NATO’s decision. “Who is challenging global security and undermining global peace? Are there any wars or conflicts over the years where NATO is not involved? The Chinese mission to the EU said in a statement Thursday.
“NATO’s so-called Strategic Concept, filled with Cold War thoughts and ideological biases, attacks and smears China in a malicious way. We strongly oppose it,” the statement read. “When it comes to acts that harm China’s interests, we will provide firm and strong responses.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China has repeatedly pointed the finger at the United States and NATO. But NATO’s focus on the Sino-Russian partnership began even before Moscow’s military operations in its neighbor. He has also spoken openly about China for some time.
At its annual summit in Brussels last June, the traditionally Russia-centric military alliance said, for the first time, that it must respond to Beijing’s growing power. The language used by the bloc at the time also echoed the phrase “systemic rival” to the EU and “systemic competitor” to the UK when describing China.
Beijing’s response was equally strong. In response to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s remark on Sino-Russian military relations last year around the time of the Brussels summit, a Foreign Ministry spokesman urged the alliance to “let go of Cold War mentality and ideological bias” – language similar to that deployed this week.
This week, NATO wanted to add a layer of nuances in its descriptions of Russia and China. “China is not our adversary, but we must be lucid about the serious challenges it poses,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, adding that NATO was always “open to constructive engagement” with Beijing.
The language contrasted with NATO’s view of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. “The Russian Federation is the greatest and most direct threat to the security of allies and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” NATO’s strategic concept wrote, pledging to “continue to respond to Russian threats and hostile actions in a united and responsible framework”. way”.
Yet the alliance was clearly wary of Beijing’s close ties to Moscow. “The deepening of the strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undermine the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” it said. the plan.
It is not immediately clear what the talk of China in its latest strategy means for NATO operationally. “We know there will be greater collaboration with the EU in areas of China policy where the EU has more experience, such as resilience and economic coercion,” said Meia Nouwens of the group. think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
She added: “The concept mentioned that the Alliance will work with existing and new partners in the Indo-Pacific. But we don’t know which new partners NATO is turning to – perhaps some Southeast Asian countries or India.
Some pundits have urged NATO to establish a “China Council” to coordinate NATO policies on China, but that was not discussed this week in Madrid. And in recent days, reports emerged that France and Germany had objected to portraying China as a “threat” because it could undermine Europe’s interests in trade and technology.
“It is interesting that after three years of conversations about China and agreeing on the challenges it poses to the alliance, the allies are still not entirely in agreement on how to frame this discussion and on how to respond to it,” Nouwens said.