“China’s declared ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.” With this phrase, the Asian giant appears for the first time in history cited in a NATO Strategic Concept. He is not called a “threat” like Russia, but it is clear from the wording that his growing influence is of great concern to allies. And, above all, “the deepening of the strategic association between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undermine the norms on which the international order is based” is worrying. “It strives to subvert the rules-based international order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains,” he abounds.
Though the document approved by the 30 allies states that NATO remains open to a “constructive engagement” with Beijing, it contains harsh accusations against the Chinese dictatorship. “His malicious cyber and hybrid operations, and his confrontational and disinformation rhetoric undermines the security of the Alliance.” The text does not end here, it also highlights that the Asian dictatorship “maintains opacity about its strategy, its intentions and its military accumulation” and that it intends to use its economic and industrial power to “create strategic dependencies and strengthen its influence”.
To emphasize the intentionality of the change that these statements imply about the deliberate omission of previous strategies, the general secretary of the military organization, Jens Stoltenberg, highlighted in his appearance after the approval of the 2022 Strategic Concept: “We do not mention China with a single word”.
NATO does not stop at rhetoric about China. The Madrid summit, again for the first time in the history of the Alliance, was attended by countries that, despite being geographically in the Pacific area, are clearly situated in the Western geopolitical and democratic orbit: Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. All four are close allies of the United States, which consequently distances them from the great Asian giant.
“Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow,” he told Hikariko Ono, press secretary of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thus summarizing the concerns of several democratic countries in the region about the risks posed by attempts China’s most stark of projecting its influence.
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If anything is feared in that area of the planet, it is that a chapter similar to the one lived in Eastern Europe with Taiwan as the stage will unfold, an island over which China claims sovereignty after the civil war and subsequent division that it experienced, after the Second World War. The one who has said it most clearly, on the other hand, has been the British foreign minister, Liz Truss: “China is closely watching Ukraine; they are expanding their military capabilities and they are extending their global influence.” “There is a real risk that it will get the wrong idea and it will result in a catastrophic miscalculation, like invading Taiwan. That is exactly what we see in the case of Ukraine, a strategic miscalculation by Putin.”
“It is certainly very worrying that China is now making statements about NATO, that it is making statements about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands […] and that is why it is so important that NATO responds with our Strategic Concept, which makes specific reference to China”, added the head of British diplomacy.