China has urged NATO to stop exaggerating what it called the “China threat theory” after the 30-nation transatlantic security alliance pledged to counter the “systemic challenges” posed by Beijing’s policies.
China’s response on Tuesday came a day after NATO leaders met in Brussels and issued a communique criticising Beijing’s nuclear arsenal as well as its space and cyberwarfare capabilities.
“China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security,” the communique said.
NATO’s forceful stance on China marked a diplomatic victory for US President Joe Biden, who had urged his fellow leaders to stand up to China’s absolute rule and growing military might – a fundamental change of focus for an alliance created to defend Europe from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
In an angry response, the Chinese mission to the European Union called for NATO to “view China’s development rationally, stop exaggerating various forms of ‘China threat theory’ and not to use China’s legitimate interests and legal rights as excuses for manipulating group politics (while) artificially creating confrontations”.
NATO’s accusations “slandered” China’s peaceful development, misjudged the international situation, and represented a “continuation of the Cold War mentality”, the statement added.
“We will not pose a ‘systemic challenge’ to anyone, but if anyone wants to pose a ‘systemic challenge’ to us, we will not remain indifferent.”
The tense exchange comes amid growing global concern about China’s trade, technology and human rights policies. Over the weekend, the meeting of the G7 nations in the UK also chastised Beijing for its treatment of the Uighur minority in its Xinjiang region, called for Hong Kong to keep a high degree of autonomy, and demanded a full investigation of the origins of the coronavirus, which was first recorded in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
Military frictions have meanwhile increased between China and rival powers over the past year, including in the Taiwan straits, the South China Sea, and on the China-India border in the Himalayas.
The Chinese mission to the EU said Beijing was “committed to a defense policy that is defensive in nature” and called its pursuit of defence and military modernisation “justified, reasonable, open and transparent”.
“China is committed to peaceful development,” the statement said. “We will never give up our right to uphold peace, and will stand firm in defending our sovereignty, security and development interests. We will follow very closely NATO’s strategic adjustment and its policy adjustment towards China.”
NATO should stop taking China’s “legitimate interests and rights as an excuse to manipulate bloc politics, create confrontation and fuel geopolitical confrontation,” it continued.
“Instead, NATO should devote more of its energy to promoting dialogue and cooperation and making more efforts that are truly conducive to upholding international and regional security and stability,” it added.