NATO-China: New relationship challenges

December 09, 2019 18:47
Jens Stoltenberg gestures during a presser at the end of NATO summit in Britain on Dec 4. The alliance has chosen to officially respond to the rise of China at a time when the relationship between US and China is continuing to deteriorate. Photo: Reuters

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Last week, leaders of its 29 member states gathered for a two-day summit in London. And for the very first time, the group in its joint statement named and mentioned China.

As Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, has put it, the alliance must "better understand the rise of China and what it means for our security in terms of opportunities and challenges."

Stoltenberg pointed out that China is now the world’s second largest defense spender, and that there is a pressing need to incorporate Beijing into major arms control agreements that are concluded among the great powers in future.

He stressed that this was not "about moving NATO into the South China Sea”, and also denied that the decades-old military alliance trying to create a new enemy.

However, as China is now aggressively enhancing both its economic and military presence across the world, including in the Arctic Circle and in Africa, NATO needs to start taking “into account that China is coming closer to us,” Stoltenberg noted.

As we all know, the United States has remained the strongest stakeholder in NATO.

Now, as the alliance has chosen to officially respond to the rise of China at a time when the relationship between Washington and Beijing is continuing to deteriorate, it raises the possibility that a “New Cold War” between China and the West may be in the making.

In particular, as "containing China" has become a bipartisan consensus in the US, even if President Donald Trump fails to get his second term in the 2020 election, Washington is likely to just fine-tune, but not change drastically, the current policy line no matter who will be in charge of the White House in the future.

As far as China is concerned, it may be facing an equally severe challenge like the West. Now that it has come on to the NATO radar, and is shrouded heavily in the shadow of a “New Cold War”, the Asian giant's path toward becoming the world's next superpower may turn out to be a bumpy one.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 6

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal