China has accused Nato of slandering its peaceful development after alliance leaders warned how the burgeoning military power is threatening “rules-based international order”, the BBC is reporting.
Nato leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels on Monday had warned of the military threat posed by China. They said the country is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, is “opaque” about its military modernisation and is co-operating militarily with Russia.
Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg warned China was “coming closer” to Nato in military and technological terms but said the alliance did not want a Cold War with China.
It was the first time Nato has placed China at the centre of its agenda.
In response, China said its defence policy was “defensive in nature” and urged Nato to “devote more of its energy to promoting dialogue”.
China’s mission to the European Union said in a statement, “Our pursuit of defence and military modernisation is justified, reasonable, open and transparent.”
Beijing believes Nato should view China’s development in a “rational manner” and “stop taking China’s legitimate interests and rights as an excuse to manipulate bloc politics, create confrontation and fuel geopolitical competition”.
The powerful political and military alliance between 30 European and North American countries sees Russia as a main threat.
President Joe Biden, whose first Nato meeting as president this was, is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.
According to the summit’s concluding statement, China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security”.
“We remain concerned with China’s frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation,” it said.
Stoltenberg told reporters: “We need to address together, as the alliance, the challenges that the rise of China poses to our security”.
China is one of the world’s leading military and economic powers, whose ruling Communist Party has an iron grip on politics, daily life and much of society.
The Chinese military currently has the largest armed forces in the world, with over two million personnel on active duty.
Nato has become increasingly concerned about the growing military capabilities of China, which it sees as a threat to the security and democratic values of its members.
In recent years, the alliance has also grown wary of China’s activities in Africa, where it has built military bases.
Nato’s tough message on China followed criticism of the country by the G7, a group of major economies that met for a summit in England last week.
In a communiqué G7 leaders criticised China for alleged human rights abuses and demanded a transparent investigation into the origins of Covid-19 in Wuhan.
In response, China accused the G7 of “lies, rumours and baseless accusations”.