Who are China's military allies?
NATO sees China as a possible adversary
The text of the final declaration of the NATO meeting in London mentions China for the first time as a possible threat to the alliance. "We recognize that China's growing influence and international politics present both challenges and opportunities that we must address together as an alliance," the document reads.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg does not (yet) want to see China as a new opponent or even an enemy of NATO. "The point is not that NATO is now advancing to the South China Sea. But we should consider that China is moving closer to us," said Stoltenberg in London, referring to Chinese activities in the Arctic, Africa and Europe for the time being have nothing to do with classic military armor.
This sentence in the final declaration "does not mean that China is already an enemy," said US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. China is a strategic challenge. But: "We have to be prepared in the event that things don't turn out the way we would like."
The Brussels headquarters of NATO have been thinking about China for a long time
Why exactly is the Western Alliance worried? Mainly because of the following eight points.
ARMOR: China spends a lot of money on armaments and its military. The Chinese leadership is modernizing its weapon systems and the navy. NATO wants to work towards ensuring that strategic and intercontinental nuclear weapons always have the upper hand. The naval units of NATO - primarily the US Pacific fleet - should be on a par with those of China. After the USA, China has the world's second largest defense budget with around 160 billion US dollars. The US is a long way ahead with $ 630 billion.
COOPERATION: China is buying weapons on a large scale from NATO opponent Russia. In return, Chinese companies sell the Russians urgently needed machinery and infrastructure for the gas and oil industries. Russia has not been able to acquire this anywhere else since 2014 - since sanctions by the western states came into force due to the annexation of Crimea. Cooperation between the two most powerful states in the East is being watched nervously at NATO.
"It is not yet entirely clear how strategically this partnership will develop, but NATO could be faced with a scenario in which Russia and China are getting closer and closer. What would that mean for cohesion and burden-sharing in NATO ? "asks the lecturer Marc Ozawa from the NATO Defense College, a kind of NATO think tank based in Rome. The hybrid, asymmetrical warfare that Russia uses in Ukraine, the Russian military have at least partially copied from the Chinese army, which is said to have developed this tactic. This is what the The Hague Center for Strategic Studies thinks in an analysis.
Soldiers in Xinjang Province: The army is used against Uyghurs inside
COMMUNICATION: The US is pushing to exclude the Chinese company Huawei from expanding the telecommunications infrastructure. The USA fear espionage and possible sabotage by the state-controlled company. The European NATO countries do not want to keep Huawei away from the expansion of the 5G radio networks from the outset, but are demanding general security standards that must be observed. It will be the task of NATO to precisely assess the risks of Chinese telecommunications infrastructure and to find ways of maintaining communication should cyber attacks occur. The USA is demanding a tougher demeanor here, something which German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, displeases. She argues that good economic relations with China are important for Germany and other European countries.
INFRASTRUCTURE: China has brought together 16 Eastern European and Southeastern European states in its so-called Silk Road Initiative, is granting cheap loans and building infrastructure in the states that also include NATO and EU members. The main beneficiaries are currently the five western Balkan states that do not belong to NATO. A little more than nine billion euros flowed there in 2016 and 2017. EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who until recently was responsible for EU enlargement and the Balkans, said at the beginning of the year that the West overestimated the influence of Russia and underestimated the influence of China.
Not in line in China policy: French President Macron (left) and President Trump in London
AFRICA: China is active in resource-rich countries in Africa, granting cheap loans there and building infrastructure such as roads, railways and power plants with its own companies. These investments often accumulate high debts in the affected states, which could lead to a high level of dependence on Beijing. While the Europeans attach importance to good governance and the lowest possible corruption in their development investments, these considerations hardly play a role for state-owned Chinese investors.
ARCTIC: NATO fears that in this way China's influence will grow not only in Africa but also in other parts of the world. In 2018, the Chinese leadership published a "White Paper on Arctic Politics". Although it is not a bordering the Arctic, China uses it to define its claim to parts of the area. Chinese companies are to participate in the development and exploitation of the Arctic with extensive investments.
PERSIAN GULF: In the Middle East, China could at some point abandon its more or less neutral role of the past decades. Its influence through massive investments as part of the Silk Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative, is increasing particularly in Iran, which is one of the pivotal points of the new Silk Road. Analysts at NATO headquarters in Brussels believe that the more the enmity between the United States and Iran grows, the weaker the bond becomes as a result of the failed deal to limit Iran's nuclear weapons, the more China is pushing into this loophole.
SOUTH CHINA SEA: China claims islands in the South China Sea, which the US believes belong to other Southeast Asian states with which the US is allied. Chinese military provocations in the region could eventually lead to real conflict. Although NATO itself would not be directly involved, it would be the largest NATO country, the USA. Would the support of the other allies then be necessary?
No uniform policy yet
In some areas of conflict that also affect economic interests, the 29 member states are not only working against China, but also against their own allies within NATO. For example, the numerous trade disputes that US President Donald Trump has started do not stop at the NATO door. Not only China is subject to US punitive tariffs, but also Germany, France and others. That could weld China and Europeans together on another level against the leading NATO power.
French President Emmanuel Macron has publicly doubted that Russia and China should be seen as the classic opponents at all. He wants to focus more on fighting terrorists. Therefore, believes Tomas Valasek from the Carnegie Europe think tank, it will probably take some time before NATO can actually develop a unified China policy. In the long run, admits Valasek, China could "become a bigger problem than Russia, but it is developing much more slowly".
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