China Counters NATO ‘Threat Theory’

Kamilla Sorskar Engen, Head of International Affairs

14 Jun 2021

The single-day summit in Brussels was United States President Joe Biden’s first summit with the alliance, and he urged his NATO counterparts to counter China’s authoritarianism and increasing military power. NATO, comprised of 30 European and North American States, views Russia as its main threat. This summit is the first time that the alliance has centered its agenda on China, declaring that: "China's stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security." The summit's communiqué (statement) also relayed its concern with “China's frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation."

China responded by noting that its defence policy was “defensive in nature” and appealed for NATO to “devote more of its energy to promoting dialogue.” In its statement, China’s mission to the EU said, “Our pursuit of defence and military modernisation is justified, reasonable, open and transparent,” and that NATO should “stop taking China’s legitimate interests and rights as an excuse to manipulate bloc politics, create confrontation and fuel geopolitical competition." China also argued that NATO had “slandered” its peaceful development and was suggestive of a “Cold War mentality”. Finally, the statement added that, "We will not pose a 'systemic challenge' to anyone, but if anyone wants to pose a 'systemic challenge' to us, we will not remain indifferent."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said to reporters, “We're not entering a new Cold War and China is not our adversary, not our enemy." But "we need to address together, as the alliance, the challenges that the rise of China poses to our security."

This comes after a G7 meeting in the United Kingdom last week denounced China’s human rights violations in the Xinjiang region, called for Hong Kong to maintain its autonomy, and insisted on an investigation into Covid-19’s origin. The Chinese Embassy in London stated its opposition to discussion of Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, due to the apparent distortion of facts which exposed the "sinister intentions of a few countries such as the United States."

China is a leading military and economic power globally, with the Communist Party maintaining strong control over daily life and society. It also has one of the world’s biggest militaries. NATO has grown uneasy over its increasing military capacity and perceived threat to its members’ democratic and security interests, as well as of China’s army bases in Africa.

Please find the summit’s communiqué below: