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Is China a Challenge to NATO?
2022-07-01 18:15

At the 2022 Madrid Summit, NATO adopted a new Strategic Concept, claiming that NATO member states would work together to address the systemic challenges posed by China.

A look at history and reality tells us a different story. In recent years, certain NATO countries, clinging to a Cold War mentality and the hegemony logic, have pursued bloc politics and exhausted their efforts in containing China, seeking to expand NATO’s geographical parameters under the pretext of addressing the so-called China challenge. But one cannot help but wonder, does China, a country tens of thousands of miles away, really pose any challenge to NATO, an organization that “seeks to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area”? Who is waging wars and increasing military build-up, and who is challenging global security and threatening world peace? It’s clear for all to see. Facts are facts, which cannot be distorted by disinformation.

The Chinese nation always loves peace, and the pursuit of peace is part of its cultural DNA. As one of the world’s most powerful countries for a long time in history, China has never colonized or invaded others. After the Age of Discovery, the fleets of European powers rampaged to seize colonies. However, nearly 100 years before Columbus discovered the Americas, a Chinese navigator named Zheng He led what was then the most powerful fleet in the world on seven expeditions to the Pacific Ocean and the western Indian Ocean, visiting over 30 countries and regions without taking a single inch of land. 

Over the past 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic, China has pursued an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. China follows the path of peaceful development and remains a contributor to world peace and a defender of the international order.

China has never initiated a war or invaded an inch of another country’s land. China is still the only country in the world that undertakes to follow a path of peaceful development in its constitution. China does not interfere in others’ internal affairs and export ideology, still less engage in long-arm jurisdiction, unilateral sanctions, or economic coercion. For the sake of pursuing fairness and justice and getting rid of bullyism, we invite NATO, an organization that gathers the most developed and self-proclaimed most civilized countries, to take the same position.

On the exact same day that China successfully tested its first atomic bomb, the Chinese government declared its “No First Use” (NFU) policy, making China the only nuclear-weapon state to have made such an explicit commitment. We’d love to invite the three nuclear countries in NATO make the same commitment. Given that China has fewer nuclear weapons than any of them, I cannot think of any reason why they should be afraid to do so.

At present, China’s military spending is only a quarter of that of the United States and even smaller if compared with that of NATO as a whole. China’s military budget accounts for about 1.3% of its GDP, much lower than the threshold of NATO countries. China’s per capita military spending is below the global average and less than one-fifth of that of NATO. It would be a fair and reasonable demand to ask NATO countries cut their military spending to the same level as China before pointing fingers.

China upholds true multilateralism and global strategic stability. China is the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the second-largest contributor among all countries to the UN peacekeeping budget. China has sent more than 40,000 peacekeepers, making positive contributions to maintaining world and regional peace and stability.

NATO claims that it is committed to upholding the rules-based international order. But the question is what kind of rules and order it is going to defend. If it is an international multilateral system centered on the UN, an international order underpinned by international law and basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, it will certainly be welcomed with open arms. However, if NATO attempts to impose its own rules or even “rules of gang” on the global community, it will be rejected flatly. 

NATO claims to be a defensive organization, but what we have seen is that it waged wars against sovereign states, creating huge casualties and leaving tens of millions displaced. Has the UN Security Council authorized those actions? If not, hadn’t NATO distorted and abused the right to self-defense? Don’t such actions constitute breach of international law?

NATO claims that its defense zone will not go beyond the North Atlantic, but its presence is everywhere. In recent years, it has flexed its muscles in the Asia-Pacific region and sought to stir up bloc confrontation here, as it has done in Europe. How many wars waged by one of its member states, whose 240-plus-year history only sees 16 years without war with others, were defensive?

The tragedy of the two World Wars and the Ukraine crisis tells us that hegemony, group politics and bloc confrontation bring no peace or security, but only lead to wars and conflicts. It also reminds us that blind faith in the so-called “position of strength” and attempts to expand military alliances and seek its own security at the expense of others will only land oneself in a security dilemma.

The world has entered a new period of volatility and transformation. The rise of Cold War mentality, bloc confrontation and power politics poses a serious threat to world peace and security. At the annual meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the Global Security Initiative, calling on all nations to stay committed to the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously, peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and consultation, and maintaining security in both traditional and non-traditional domains. 

China stands ready to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with all peace-loving countries to practice true multilateralism, build a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation. We need to be clear that we are a community in which all countries share a common stake and make concerted efforts for global peace and stability. 

China needs development and longs for peace. We sincerely hope to live in harmony and develop together with all countries and organizations in the world. However, the history of China tells us that peace can never be a gift from others. Instead, it needs to be defended firmly. We will not be naive about NATO’s Strategic Concept. There is a well-known Chinese song with these lyrics: “For our friends, we have fine wine. For jackals or wolves, we welcome with shotguns.”

Author: Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the EU

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