A column in China’s Communist Party People’s Daily newspaper commended President Donald Trump on Monday for allegedly exhibiting “disdain” for NATO, calling for the eradication of the military coalition entirely.
The People’s Daily lamented that NATO continues to exist, demanding the group “should be relegated to the dustbin of history.” In particular, the publication appeared disappointed that American foreign policy experts condemned Trump for criticizing the current state of NATO rather than urging him to dismantle it entirely.
The newspaper compared NATO unfavorably to global agreements that the Chinese regime prefers, like the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement on climate change, suggesting these were worth keeping but the agreements that bind NATO together are not.
“Scholars of international relations are worried that the United States under President Donald Trump is creating a dangerous place for America,” the article suggests, citing harsh criticism of the president in the New York Times. It goes on to note that the Times‘ writers are “ignoring the fact that alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are Cold War relics and should be relegated to the dustbin of history.”
While objecting to Trump’s apparent rejection of multilateral agreements, the piece praises him for his “questioning of whether it is worth preserving the US-led alliance system—a relic of the Cold War.” Challenging the purpose of NATO “is a positive development, because it shines a spotlight on the need for reform of the international system.”
“We should move beyond the traditional theories of international relations and build on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter to make the world a better place for all countries and not just for America,” the People’s Daily concludes, essentially arguing that America’s alliances are directly at odds with the interests of the rest of the world (and, in particular, China).
Instead of attacking Trump when he challenges NATO, the state propaganda arm suggests, the world should condemn Trump’s “reckless” disregard for multilateral agreements that greatly benefit China.
“Trump’s assaults on multilateralism are indeed reckless, and countries should push back against his attempts to kill multilateralism and weaken cooperation,” the People’s Daily suggests. “Not only did he pull out of the historic Paris Agreement, but he also abandoned the multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran.”
The NATO alliance – consisting of much of Western Europe and several post-Soviet states – is intended to serve as a buffer against Russian expansionism, a cause of great concern following the Cold War. President Vladimir Putin has made NATO’s prolonged existence appear increasingly necessary with invasions of multiple regions of Georgia and Ukraine, though NATO’s only currently active military theater is in Afghanistan. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States invoked Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which calls for all NATO members to attack an enemy of any NATO country that comes under fire. NATO has been actively involved in combatting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in that country since.
Afghanistan borders China, meaning the ongoing war in that country places NATO troops right on China’s border. While NATO’s activities help prevent Taliban and al-Qaeda incursions into China, they also ensure a prolonged American and European presence on the nation’s border, which may significantly impair China’s ability to expand its border outward as it has attempted to do in the Doklam region bordering India.
President Trump caused significant alarm among the establishment elite of countries like France and Germany, which have consistently failed to meet their NATO treaty obligations, when, during the regular meeting in July, he demanded greater commitment to the alliance. Trump suggested not only that countries should stop failing to meet the two percent GDP investment in defense that NATO requires, but that the coalition should consider increasing that commitment to four percent.
Trump also questioned the commitment of other NATO countries, particularly Germany, to the coalition’s mission of ensuring that Russia’s aggression does not adversely affect global stability. Trump accused the German government of enriching Russia through its oil and gas deals while expecting American taxpayers to fund Germany’s defense from Russia.
“It is very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes and pays out billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump said during the NATO summit last month. “We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries.”
Following that summit, the Global Times, another Chinese government outlet, suggested Trump could resolve the funding dispute by reducing U.S. defense funding and limiting American military activities abroad.
“European members acquire a sense of security from NATO, but also because Russia doesn’t pose the same security threat as the former Soviet Union did to Europe,” the Global Times claimed. “It makes sense for Europe to cut defense expenditure. The right way for Washington is to cut its own defense budget to reach a balance.”
The Global Times accused the United States of pursuing “global hegemony” and using NATO spending as an excuse. China regularly complains about Washington having a military presence in Asia, particularly the South China Sea, where China has illegally colonized and militarized artificial islands belonging to its neighbors.