The former leader of China, Deng Xiaoping, allegedly used an old saying to describe the country’s foreign policy after the end of the Cold War: “Hide our power, keep our time.” Those days are long gone.
China now faces a world that increasingly views its economic and military power as a threat to be confronted, as NATO leaders made clear in their Brussels summit.
Although China poses virtually no direct military threat to Europe, which is NATO’s home ground, it can now use its military power in a way that was unimaginable only a few years ago – not just in Asia but worldwide.
Chinese officials reacted with anger and ridicule to the NATO declaration, accusing the alliance of reclaiming outdated Cold War strategies. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday warned that the formation of cliques and countries forcing side-picking strategies were doomed to fail.
Even as NATO leaders met in Brussels, US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and several other warships retreated into the disputed waters of the South China Sea, with the group’s commander in tow. Will Pennington, who promised to ‘protect international law and rules based’. order, ”wording that reflects NATO communication. Hours later, 28 Chinese fighter jets and other aircraft – the largest fleet in years – held their own show of strength over waters south of Taiwan, the island democracy that China claims to be its own.
Just a few days earlier, the group of 7 leaders, meeting in Cornwall, England, had for the first time issued a statement on Taiwan calling on China to support peace and stability across the Strait after a series of threatening Chinese military operations like those on Tuesday.
The statements by the Group of 7 and NATO are in part the fruit of President Biden’s strategy to form a coalition of like-minded countries to confront China over its activities.
Although they are primarily symbolic, they have deepened for Beijing a sense of crisis in relations with the United States that is now threatening to expand into Europe. China’s leader Xi Jinping and senior diplomats have been trying for the past few months to thwart such an alliance from a series of meetings and video conferences with European leaders.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said on Tuesday that Mr. Biden was extraordinarily successful in pulling allies together after the Trump years of the disorder and sharpening the American position in the world by improving the initially chaotic American response. to the coronavirus pandemic.
“All of this means one thing: to make China suffer as comprehensively and deeply as possible setbacks and traumas,” he said.
In its communications, NATO no longer declared China a threat, as it did under Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, and even called for deepening cooperation on issues such as climate change. At the same time, he noted that China was gradually moving closer to its neighbor and joining the Russians in military training exercises, including in the Mediterranean and the Baltic.
NATO leaders cited China’s rising military spending, its modernizing nuclear arsenal, “progress in the space domain” and cyber world and asymmetric activities, including the dissemination of disinformation. They pointed out that China’s military might and “assertive behavior” pose challenges to the security interests of the alliance’s 30 member states in Europe and North America.
“China is getting closer to us,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, concluding his speech at the summit of the leaders of the alliance.
15 June 2021, 14:27 ET
Little that NATO has warned about China is new.
The Pentagon has been published since 2000 annual reports about China’s growing military capabilities that set out the steady progress in its armed services. According to the latest report, it has surpassed the U.S. military in some areas, by far the most powerful and best funded. These include naval, air, and missile forces that, for the first time in modern history, gave China the ability to project power far beyond its immediate territorial waters.
What has changed in a relatively short period of time is the view on the threat that China poses.
NATO barely mentioned China in its last summit in 2019, but has now dropped it at the top of the alliance’s security agenda, a reflection on the growing ambivalence over China’s rise.
Since the election of Mr. Biden, has intensified tensions like this, especially over Taiwan.
The military balance between China and Taiwan has fallen dramatically in Beijing’s favor as the country has built up its capabilities, including naval and air force, as well as amphibious assault ships now using it in exercises that simulate an invasion.
This has led analysts inside and outside China to speculate that Mr. Xi, China’s leader, is considering a military move to conquer the island. Adm. Philip S. Davidson, then the leader of the American Indo-Pacific Command, warned Congress in March that China could try within the next six years.
Not all countries in NATO or the group of 7 share Biden’s zeal to isolate China, the differences evident from the comments of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France and others. “NATO is a North Atlantic organization,” he said. Macron said report by Politico. “China has little to do with the North Atlantic.”
Chinese officials maintain that the country is committed to peaceful development and international cooperation by the United Nations. They blame the United States and others for trying to stop its inevitable rise as a world power.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday accused NATO of hypocrisy, noting that the alliance’s collective military spending was far greater than China’s. He also criticized the role of NATO members in wars from Iraq to Syria. “NATO’s history is full of notorious atrocities,” he said.
He and others also previously cited the lowest point in China’s relations with the West: the NATO air strike in 1999 that severely damaged the Chinese embassy in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, during the war over Kosovo. According to the United States, the bombing, in which three people were killed, was a tragic mistake.
“China will not offer ‘systemic challenges’ to anyone,” China’s mission to the European Union in Brussels said in a statement on Weibo, a popular social media site, “but if anyone presents ‘systemic challenges’ to us want to state, we will not remain indifferent. ”
China’s protest ignores or underestimates the impact the country’s actions have had on its position dropped in many countries in recent years, including those who are members of NATO.
Deadly clashes along the border with India in 2020 have severely soured the emerging relations. China has also cut off discs from disputed territory with small Bhutan. The swarm of ‘fishing vessels’ in resting places and islands in the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines could push the country back closer in an alliance with the United States that swaddled under President Rodrigo Duterte.
Mr. Xi apparently felt a problem with China’s reputation late last month, when he had to create party leaders about the need for a “credible, sweet and respectful image” of the country. His prescription, however, had to be more aggressive to push back against criticism.
One example of this came when Li Yang, China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, turned a photo on Twitter of a herd of sleeping elephants in southern China into a bizarre warning. He said that “some Western politicians” wanted to oppress China and then used an aphorism from the Mao period. “They will only encounter shotguns in China !!!” (The post was last deleted.)
Keith Bradsher contributed reporting and Claire Fu contributed research.