Chinese officials and state media boiled with outrage Tuesday over a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) statement describing China as an “assertive and authoritarian power.”
Beijing’s mouthpieces dismissed the other NATO powers as hapless pawns of the United States, accused them of “slandering” peace-loving China, and threatened reprisals if NATO or the Group of Seven (G7) take actions the Chinese government deems threatening.
NATO issued a joint statement after meeting in Brussels on Monday that restated the determination of all member nations to keep “the strongest and most successful Alliance in history” together, while adapting to face the challenges of the new century.
“We face multifaceted threats, systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers, as well as growing security challenges to our countries and our citizens from all strategic directions,” NATO declared, specifying Vladimir Putin’s Russia, China, cyber-espionage from all manner of actors, weapons of mass destruction, and climate change as its top challenges.
The communique elaborated on “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behavior,” and its “coercive policies which stand in contrast to the fundamental values” of the NATO alliance:
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. 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.
This call was not well-received in Beijing. The state-run Global Times on Tuesday blasted the European members of NATO as a gaggle of hypocrites, hatemongers, and witless puppets who had better think long and hard before they let the evil United States drag them into the “mire” of a “new Cold War” against China:
Once a military crisis erupts in the Western Pacific, the US will use the NATO mechanism to mobilize more Western countries to help it exert more intensive, comprehensive pressure on China and expand the destruction of China’s rise. It is believed the US has no plan to conquer China militarily, as that does not work for China as a nuclear power. What the US wants is that as long as China-US tensions are further intensified, “Western unity” as well as their confrontation against China will be increased until they eventually crush an “isolated China.”
Therefore, NATO plays a key role. The US wants to create a narrative that equates its own hegemony to the collective strategic advantage of the West and form a consensus among 30 countries. As long as NATO countries are bound by a common hatred for China, the interest links between Western countries and China will lose its moral basis and the US could force small European countries to serve its China strategy, politically exploiting them for US interests.
The Global Times advised Chinese leadership to help Europe “discover the significance of having China as a partner” instead of serving U.S. interests and getting only “a small slice of cake from Washington’s hegemony.”
“Europe needs to be able to control its own destiny. Not only China, but Russia which also advocates multilateralism, could interact with Europe in a healthy manner,” the editorial concluded.
Also on Tuesday, the Global Times quoted the Chinese mission to the European Union declaring NATO’s communique has “slandered China’s peaceful development, misjudged the international situation and its own role, and continued the Cold War mentality mixed with group politics.”
The Chinese mission complained that NATO spends many times more than China on its military, and has far more nuclear weapons, so it is unfair for NATO to paint China as an aggressive strategic threat.
“It is crystal clear to the world whose military bases stretch all over the world, and whose aircraft carriers are wandering around to flex their military muscle,” the mission seethed, sidestepping the fact that China is working very hard to send its own aircraft carriers wandering about, as well as militarizing islands in contested waters until they effectively become stationary aircraft carriers.
Chinese officials told NATO to “stop hyping various forms of China threat theory” and darkly warned that Beijing will “not sit idly by in the face of any systemic challenges” from the Atlantic alliance.
“The United States is engaged in forming a small circle against China, based on ideological lines, but the interests of the United States and the European Union are different,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in response to the NATO statement Tuesday, following the strategy of dividing Europe from the U.S. laid out by the Global Times.
“The European Union is independent, and relevant European countries will not tie themselves to the American anti-China strategy. The U.S. is sick, and the G7 group should take the pulse and make prescriptions for the U.S.,” said Zhao, in a characteristically ugly tantrum from the Chinese spokesman who has defended sickening Chinese propaganda slandering Australia and theorized the Wuhan coronavirus might have been developed as a bio-weapon at a U.S. Army lab in Maryland.
Beijing is zeroing in on NATO’s weak spots. The alliance fumbled for purpose after the end of the Cold War, then found itself facing President Donald Trump, who called out member nations for expecting America to pay their dues and questioned the value NATO provides for its exorbitant cost in a post-Soviet strategic landscape.