China’s rising military ambitions are presenting NATO with challenges that must be addressed, the 30-nation Western alliance said Monday, the first time it has portrayed the expanding reach and capabilities of the Chinese armed forces in such a potentially confrontational way.
The description of China, contained in a communiqué issued at the conclusion of a one-day summit attended by President Biden and others, reflected a new concern over how China intends to wield its military might in coming years.
Mr. Biden has made dealing with authoritarian powers a keystone of his presidency so far, especially Russia and China. But while the NATO communiqué describes Russia as a “threat” to NATO, using tough language that was not necessarily a surprise, it is the description of China that attracted unusual attention, and could set the tone for the alliance.
Both Mr. Biden and President Donald J. Trump before him put more emphasis on the threats that China poses to the international order, partly in terms of its authoritarian system and partly in terms of its military ambitions and spending.
NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has said that China’s military budget is second in the world only to that of the United States, and that China is rapidly building its military forces, including its navy, with advanced technologies.
In a discussion of “multifaceted threats” and “systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers” early in the document, NATO says that “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.” China is not called a threat, but NATO states that “China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an alliance.”
NATO promises to “engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the alliance.” Separately, NATO officials have said that China is increasingly using Arctic routes, has exercised its military with Russia, sent ships into the Mediterranean Sea and has been active in Africa. China is also working on space-based weaponry as well as artificial intelligence and sophisticated hacking of Western institutions.
Much lower in the document, China comes up again, and is again described as presenting “systemic challenges,” this time to the “rules-based international order.” NATO also cites China’s expanding nuclear arsenal and more sophisticated delivery systems as well as its expanding navy and its military cooperation with Russia.
In a gesture toward diplomacy and engagement, the alliance vows to maintain “a constructive dialogue with China where possible,” including on the issue of climate change, and calls for China to become more transparent about its military and especially its “nuclear capabilities and doctrine.”
The leaders will also sign off on a decision to spend next year updating NATO’s 2010 strategic concept, which 11 years…