China is not an adversary, but it poses serious challenges, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, as the alliance agreed for the first time to include threats posed by Beijing in a plan guiding its future strategy.
As Russia’s war on Ukraine has dominated discussions at the NATO summit, China has earned a place among the Western alliance’s most worrying security concerns.
“We now face an era of strategic competition…China is building up its forces dramatically, including in nuclear weapons, intimidating its neighbors, including Taiwan,” Stoltenberg said. “China is not our adversary but we must be lucid about the serious challenges it represents.”
The alliance’s last master plan – or strategic concept – was approved in 2010 and did not mention China. The news states that China’s policies challenge NATO interests, security and values, although Russia remains the largest and most direct security threat.
“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] hybrid and cyber malign operations and its divisive rhetoric and disinformation target allies and undermine alliance security,” reads the strategic concept, noting a deep partnership with Russia in their joint attempts to “overthrow the rules-based international order, including in space, cyber and maritime domains”.
NATO has warned that the Chinese government is “rapidly expanding” its nuclear capability without increasing transparency or engaging in good faith in arms control, and using economic leverage to “create strategic dependencies and strengthen its influence”. .
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Beijing of undermining the rules-based order “that we believe in, that we helped build”. “If China challenges it in any way, we will resist it,” he said.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, attending his first NATO summit in Madrid, warned that the strengthening of relations between Beijing and Moscow posed a risk to all democratic nations.
“Just as Russia seeks to recreate a Russian or Soviet empire, the Chinese government seeks friends, whether…through economic support to build alliances to undermine what has always been the alliance west in places like the Indo-Pacific,” he said. said the summit on Wednesday.
Albanese said Australia had been subjected to “economic coercion” from China and urged Democratic leaders to pursue trade diversification.
Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand have been invited to the Madrid summit to put more emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region. Albanese’s aim was to make the region a second theater of strategic competition with NATO members concerned about Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Addressing her first NATO summit, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned of a “more assertive” China, but called for more diplomatic engagement. New Zealand has recently taken a tough stance against Beijing’s growing presence in the South Pacific, in part because of the signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded by saying NATO should stop “trying to start a new cold war”.
“Stop trying to screw up Asia and the world after screwing up Europe,” he said. “What they should do is let go of their Cold War mentality, their zero-sum games and stop doing things that create enemies.”
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the invasion of Ukraine had shaken the foundations of the rules-based order. “The security of Europe and the security of the Indo-Pacific cannot be separated,” he said in his opening speech.
En route to the summit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had shown the need for increased vigilance and caution in the face of possible Chinese action against Taiwan.
“I just think it’s very important that the countries of the world cannot read the events in Europe and come to the conclusion that the world will just stand idly by if the borders are changed by force,” he said. declared. “This is one of the most important lessons we learn from Ukraine.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was more explicit, calling for faster action to help Taiwan with defensive weapons, a key requirement for Ukraine since the invasion.
“There’s always a tendency – and we saw this before the war in Ukraine – there’s always a tendency to make wishful thinking, to hope that more bad things don’t happen and to wait for be too late,” Truss told Abroad from the UK. business committee.
“We should have done things earlier, we should have provided defensive weapons to Ukraine earlier. We must learn this lesson for Taiwan. Every piece of gear we send out requires months of training, so the sooner we do it, the better. »
With Reuters and AAP