China on Tuesday (15) strongly criticized NATO, the military alliance led by the United States, which had approved a statement the day before qualifying the Asian country as a risk to the security of its members.
“China calls on NATO to see its development rationally, to stop exaggerating in any way the so-called ‘Chinese threat’ and to stop using China’s legitimate interests and rights as an excuse to manipulate bloc policy, create confrontation and fuel geopolitical competition, “the Chinese mission to the European Union said.
The text specifies that the country’s military advances, cited by NATO as a source of concern, are defensive in nature.
“We will not present ‘systemic challenges’ to anyone,” the statement said in reference to the alliance’s term, “but we will not sit idly by if ‘systemic challenges’ approach us.”
China’s inclusion in the list of threats to the Atlantic alliance was unprecedented, although to a lesser degree than that reserved for Russia – after all, NATO was created in 1949 precisely to contain the Soviet Union, the predecessor state of the country of Vladimir Putin.
The criticisms of NATO were sponsored by US President Joe Biden, who has been visiting Europe since last week. Over the weekend, he pulled from the meeting of the G7, a club of wealthy nations that includes the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, a joint statement in which China is harshly accused.
Political issues have been raised, such as the end of Hong Kong’s relative autonomy, the repression of Muslims in Xinjiang and relations with Taiwan, an island that Beijing considers its own. The Chinese responded by saying that the text was defamatory.
On Tuesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen endorsed the use of the term “systemic challenge” on China and said the main issue at the table was human rights.
“We are powerful economic competitors, and for that we need instruments. Human rights and human dignity are the main issue that divides us,” he said.
In the text circulated in Brussels, China accuses NATO of having a “cold war mentality”, which the secretary general of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, rejected on Monday (14).
From a strictly military point of view, there are few areas of direct friction between Beijing and European NATO countries, although the increasingly frequent conduct of joint exercises between China and Russia in places as the Mediterranean attracts attention.
NATO’s power far exceeds that of China. The United States alone accounted for 40% of global military spending, four times more than the Chinese. From a nuclear point of view, the Americans have five times more operational warheads than their rivals.
There are tints. A study cited in The Economist by Professor Peter Robertson of the University of Western Australia suggests that the idea of purchasing power parity should be applied to compare military budgets: costs are different in each country.
Thus, he estimates an increase of up to 40% in Chinese military spending, considering that the dollar in the country buys more than in the United States, for example.
Rhetoric aside, there is a Cold War, version 2.0, underway since 2017 between the United States and China. It covers the commercial, military and political realms, and Biden frustrated those who thought he was going to reverse the course Donald Trump had set. On the contrary: with the support of the allies, he wants to double his bet to contain China.