As NATO leaders gathered in Madrid on Wednesday, the alliance released its new Strategic Concept document, which said China poses a “systemic challenge to Euro-Atlantic security.”
It was the first time China was identified as a concern by NATO’s Strategic Concept. The alliance has accused Beijing of being a threat in the other documents and in joint statements, but the Strategic Concept is meant to define the alliance’s policy over the next decade which hasn’t been updated since 2010.
The Strategic Concept accused China of employing “a broad range of political, economic and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions, and military build-up.”
The document took aim at Beijing’s growing ties with Moscow, which is the natural result of the two powers facing similar pressure from the West.
“The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interest,” the document said.
The document also made clear that Russia remains NATO’s top priority. “The Russian Federation is the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area,” it said.
NATO’s new focus on China has angered officials in Beijing, who have told the alliance to stay out of Asia and warned the US against its plans to build alliances in the region.
“NATO should stop drawing ideological lines, stoking political confrontation, or seeking to start a new Cold War,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday ahead of the Strategic Concept’s release.
“It should discard the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game mindset and stop making enemies. NATO has already disrupted Europe. It should not seek to destabilize Asia and the world,” Zhao added.