As China continues to challenge India up in the Himalayas and provoking neighbours in the South China Sea, a paper written by top defence leaders including a former secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), says that NATO immediately needs to adjust its response to the threat posed by China.
Experts have predicted that China could become more powerful than the USSR ever was, if the current pattern continues. This is in reference to China’s increasing aggressiveness with several countries including India, Japan and its actions in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“It is clear that President Xi Jinping remains committed to the modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army by 2035 and its transformation into a “world-class” military by 2049,” stated the paper. “Recent events demonstrate the determination China has to bring Hong Kong under its firm grip, raising grave concerns for its future as well as that of Taiwan,” it added.
In a report accessed by Express, the paper is published by the Policy Institute and authored by George Robertson, who was the secretary-general of NATO 1999-2004. It has been co-authored by Michael Fallon, UK secretary of state for defence, 2014-17; Catherine Ashton, the EU’s first high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, 2009-14; Peter Ricketts, UK permanent representative to NATO, 2003-06, and UK national security advisor, 2010-12; Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats, 2006-07, and the party’s former spokesperson for foreign affairs and defence; and Benedict Wilkinson, Director of Research at the Policy Institute, King’s College London.
The paper talked about the ongoing border dispute with India where Indian and Chinese troops got into a violent clash in the Galwan valley of Eastern Ladakh. The clash resulted in 20 Indian casualties and an unconfirmed number on the Chinese side.
“China’s argument with India, and ongoing disputes with Japan, demonstrate preparedness to press territorial claims from the Himalayas to the South China Seas,” asserted the paper.
In 2019, NATO leaders acknowledged that the alliance needs to address – “China’s growing influence that presents both opportunities and challenges”. “NATO needs to develop a coherent policy towards China that includes conflict-avoidance and de-escalation.”
China’s actions are pushing NATO to look at Asia, a new change that’s bothering an alliance which was created to protect Europe against the Soviet Union and then Russia. With US President Donald Trump pushing European nations to ramp up its military capabilities and to persuade them to join it in confronting an increasingly assertive China, NATO has clearly been facing a dilemma. European nations still see China as an economic partner. However, in December last year, alliance members specifically mentioned China for the first time in their declaration after the NATO Summit.
NATO has been long worried about Russia and has largely been silent on China. However, that is now changing. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on the alliance to stand up to Beijing’s “bullying and coercion,” emphasising how China’s rise is radically shifting the global balance of power.
It is clear that NATO can no longer ignore the threat. If the alliance hopes to remain competitive, it will have to develop a new strategy for dealing with Beijing.