In a first for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 72-year history, the military alliance has labeled China as presenting "systemic challenges" in an extensive communiqué which contains a whopping 79 sections.
China is the subject of two sections in the document, 55 and 56, the first of which confrontationally lays out the communist-run country's "assertive behavior which presents systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security."
Section 55 begins as follows: "China's stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security. We are concerned by those coercive policies which stand in contrast to the fundamental values enshrined in the Washington Treaty."
It continues: "China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal with more warheads and a larger number of sophisticated delivery systems to establish a nuclear triad. It is opaque in implementing its military modernization and its publicly declared military-civil fusion strategy."
And then NATO turns to highlighting the growing evidence of China-Russia strategic cooperation to counter the West. The communiqué states: "It is also cooperating militarily with Russia, including through participation in Russian exercises in the Euro-Atlantic area. We remain concerned with China’s frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation. We call on China to uphold its international commitments and to act responsibly in the international system, including in the space, cyber, and maritime domains, in keeping with its role as a major power."
Previously in launching this week's one-day summit, which was attended by President Joe Biden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned of "greater global competition" from China which is fast "coming closer to us from the Arctic to cyber space" for which he said "NATO needs a more global approach."
And in his speech rounding up the summit, Stoltenberg emphasized: "In the age of global competition Europe and North America must stand up against authoritarian regimes like Russia and China."
But he coupled his message with holding out for "opportunities in our relationship with China" - described as very possible "on arms control and climate change" where dialogue is crucial. "At the same time, what we have seen over now several years is a significant military buildup by China, investing heavily in new military capabilities, including nuclear capabilities and also more advanced weapon systems," he said.
China warns NATO it won’t "sit back" if challenged by the Bloc https://t.co/J0eEFDE3VU— Bloomberg (@business) June 15, 2021
China responded on Tuesday by charging the West with once again "hyping" threats related to itself, with a Chinese mission to the European Union statement saying "Our pursuit of defense and military modernization is justified, reasonable, open and transparent." It urged NATO to "devote more of its energy to promoting dialogue". According to NBC:
China accused NATO of slander on Tuesday, and warned the alliance to "stop hyping up" the threat it poses after the summit’s communique took a tough line on Beijing.
The spokesperson of China's mission to the European Union accused NATO of a "Cold War mentality" in a statement posted on its website, and said that it is "slandering China’s peaceful development and misjudging the international situation and its own role."
The spokesperson said that China wouldn’t "sit by and do nothing if 'systemic challenges' come closer to us."
The statement also called on Brussels to view China's "defensive in nature" foreign policy in a "rational manner" and "stop taking China's legitimate interests and rights as an excuse to manipulate bloc politics, create confrontation and fuel geopolitical competition."