Beijing criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Thursday after the U.S.-led military alliance asserted that China poses "serious challenges" to global stability.
NATO listed China as one of its priorities in the so-called 2022 Strategic Concept that leaders approved Wednesday at a summit in Madrid. This marked a first, as the alliance's previous blueprint, published in 2010, made no mention of the East Asian country. According to NATO, Beijing's "coercive policies" threaten the Western bloc's "interests, security, and values."
Addressing the "systemic challenges posed by the People's Republic of China to Euro-Atlantic security" and the "deepening strategic partnership" between China and Russia is now a NATO priority, the bloc declared.
Beijing responded with indignation. "Who's challenging global security and undermining world peace?" China's mission to the European Union asked Thursday in a statement. "Are there any wars or conflicts over the years where NATO is not involved?"
"NATO's so-called Strategic Concept, filled with Cold War thinking and ideological bias, is maliciously attacking and smearing China. We firmly oppose it," the statement said. "When it comes to acts that undermine China's interests, we will make firm and strong responses."
As The Guardian reported:
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, China has been pointing its finger at the U.S. and NATO on multiple occasions. But NATO's attention to the China-Russia partnership began even before Moscow's military operations in its neighbor. It has also been openly talking about China for some time.
In its annual summit in Brussels last June, the traditionally Russia-focused military alliance asserted, for the first time, that it needed to respond to Beijing's growing power. The language the bloc used at the time also echoed the E.U.'s phrase of "systemic rival," and the U.K.'s "systemic competitor" when describing China.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday that "China is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons, bullying its neighbors, threatening Taiwan... monitoring and controlling its own citizens through advanced technology, and spreading Russian lies and disinformation."
"China is not our adversary," said Stoltenberg, "but we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents." In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Thursday that NATO's latest policy document "disregards facts, confuses black and white... [and] smears China's foreign policy."
China, Zhao added, does not pose "the systemic challenge imagined." Instead, he argued, it is NATO that is a "systemic challenge to world peace and stability" and its "hands are stained with the blood of the world's people."
Xi’s visit to #HK serves as a warning to some external hostile forces as well as secessionists in the city that the country will never tolerate those who sabotage Hong Kong’s prosperity, or country’s security and sovereignty: observers https://t.co/PRQFPlETZw pic.twitter.com/RlCMBgMQZ4— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) June 30, 2022
While Stoltenberg claimed that NATO is still "open to constructive engagement" with Beijing, the trans-Atlantic military alliance is moving to expand its reach across the Pacific. This is due in part to fears that Russia's military assault on Ukraine could embolden China to invade Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing considers its province, and concerns about possible military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing on Russia's Pacific coast.
As Al Jazeera reported:
Highlighting NATO's new focus on China, the gathering of world leaders in Madrid, both inside the bloc's summit and on its sidelines, included many from Asian nations.
It was the first time that the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand were invited to a NATO summit. They participated in a NATO session on new global challenges after holding a side meeting outside of the summit.
On Wednesday, Zhao encouraged NATO to abandon its "zero-sum game and the practice of creating enemies, and not try to mess up Asia and the whole world after disrupting Europe." Referring to NATO's response to the war in Ukraine, Zhao said that "sanctions are not a way out of conflicts, and the continued delivery of weapons will not help realize peace."
During this week's summit, Stoltenberg announced that "thousands of new troops would be deployed in eight countries on NATO's eastern flank," the New York Times reported Thursday. Biden, for his part, said that "Washington would deploy an Army garrison headquarters and a field support battalion in Poland, the first U.S. forces permanently located on NATO's eastern flank."
Just before issuing its strategic blueprint, NATO also extended formal membership invitations to Finland and Sweden. Peace advocates have warned that the incorporation of the two previously neutral Nordic countries, one of which shares an 830-mile border with Russia, into NATO increases the likelihood of a direct confrontation that could spiral into a nuclear war.