Biden China Tracker

'NATO & China's Challenges to Europe'

Center for Strategic and International Studies

Pierre Morcos | Center for Strategic and International Studies
'NATO & China's Challenges to Europe'
'NATO & China's Challenges to Europe'
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G7 to D10

4

June 9, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘Even though China does not pose a direct military threat to NATO, contrary to Russia or terrorist groups, Beijing’s growing economic influence and diplomatic assertiveness in Europe coupled with its growing military relationship with Russia do have major implications for the transatlantic economy as well as its security.’

‘As NATO leaders gathered in London in December 2019, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made repeated calls on the need for the alliance to adapt to a new challenge for NATO: China.’

  • ‘ “We have to address the fact that China is coming closer to us” in Africa, in the Arctic, in the cyberspace, and even in Europe, he notably stressed to support his case.’
  • ‘Allies agreed in London to mention China for the first time in a NATO declaration, underlying that “China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.” ’

‘Two years later, NATO has not clarified yet its strategy toward China, and its “pivot” to China remains ill-defined.’

  • ‘As NATO leaders meet on June 14 in Brussels, will they begin to formulate a NATO China policy?’

‘Even though China does not pose a direct military threat to NATO, contrary to Russia or terrorist groups, Beijing’s growing economic influence and diplomatic assertiveness in Europe coupled with its growing military relationship with Russia do have major implications for the transatlantic economy as well as its security.’

  • ‘Chinese investments in critical infrastructure across Europe, from telecommunications networks to port facilities, could weaken NATO’s ability to respond to international crises diplomatically and, if necessary, militarily.’
  • ‘China’s majority ownership positions in about 10 percent of all European port capacity and its investments in civilian roads and rails in Eastern Europe potentially complicate NATO’s military mobility and readiness in a crisis situation.’
  • ‘Similarly, if some allies include Huawei equipment in their 5G networks, questions about the integrity of their telecommunications would be raised given the close ties of the company with the Chinese Communist Party.’
  • ‘Sensitive defense supply chains of allies can also be overly dependent on China, as recently witnessed with the F-35 fighter jets.’

‘China’s military reach is also getting closer to the Euro-Atlantic region.’

  • ‘The Russian and Chinese navies have conducted joint military exercises in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, signaling a burgeoning military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow.’
  • ‘Collaboration between China and Russia grows stronger in the Arctic, where both countries invest in natural gas projects as well as in transport corridors as part of an effort known as the “Polar Silk Road” or the “Northern Sea Route.” ’

‘Beyond the Euro-Atlantic area, China is developing modern military capabilities (long-range missiles, aircraft carriers, and nuclear attack submarines) with potentially serious security implications for NATO given their global reach.’

  • ‘Likewise, China is investing in counterspace weapons that could potentially threaten any NATO satellite.’
  • ‘Allies are also regularly the targets of cyberattacks originating from China-based hackers.’

‘Allies have faced an increasingly assertive Chinese foreign policy as well.

  • ‘Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Beijing has notably intensified its disinformation efforts directly targeting NATO countries.’
  • ‘Beijing has also tried to leverage its close economic ties with some NATO countries through the Belt and Road Initiative to erode allies’ cohesion and unity in an effort to impede criticism of Beijing’s human rights violations and its violations of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.’
  • ‘China actively exploits bilateral ties to impede unified positions within the European Union, making it a very easy step to diminish joint positions at NATO on issues contrary to Chinese interests.’

‘This dimension of the China challenge underscores the importance of NATO’s political cohesion toward Beijing.’

  • ‘That said, one major stumbling block is the ability of NATO to define a strategy toward China due to lack of needed political cohesion on this issue, even though there is growing convergence between the United States and Europe on how to deal with China.’

‘The multifaceted security challenges posed by China have been factored in the process leading up to an updated strategic concept, known as NATO 2030.’

  • ‘Senior experts appointed by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to think through future challenges to the alliance noted that “NATO must devote much more time, political resources and action to the security challenges posed by China.” ’
  • ‘NATO 2030 will be a central component of the June 14 summit and a proposed updated concept will offer an opportunity for allies to agree on the broad lines of a China policy for NATO.’

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