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December 5, 2019

NATO responds to the rise of China

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has for the first time mentioned China in an official declaration, with alliance leaders raising concern about infrastructure and arms.

By Harry Lye

NATO will push China to participate in arms control treaties and take a more careful approach to infrastructure, the alliance has signalled in its London Declaration, released following the leader’s summit in Watford on Wednesday.

Section six of NATO’s London Declaration sees the alliance dipping its toes into a topic it has so far avoided, signalling a recognition that the threats facing NATO allies originate from more than just Russia and terrorism.

The declaration reads: “To stay secure, we must look to the future together. We are addressing the breadth and scale of new technologies to maintain our technological edge while preserving our values and norms.

“We will continue to increase the resilience of our societies, as well as of our critical infrastructure and our energy security. NATO and allies, within their respective authority, are committed to ensuring the security of our communications, including 5G, recognising the need to rely on secure and resilient systems.”

The passage goes on to say: “We recognise that China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an alliance.”

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Speaking at a press conference after NATO leaders agreed on the declaration, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said: “For the first time, we addressed the rise of China – both the challenges and the opportunities it poses. And the implications for our security.”

Echoing the language in the declaration Stoltenberg reaffirmed the idea that a common, alliance-wide approach would is needed to ensure an effective response to China. Stoltenberg said: “Leaders agreed we need to address this together as an Alliance. And that we must find ways to encourage China to participate in arms control arrangements.”

Speaking the day before the summit at the NATO Engages event in London, Stoltenberg said that in the past China was not a NATO issue however he added: “But we have now, of course, recognised that the rise of China has security implications for all Allies.”

He added: “China has the second-largest defence budget in the world. They recently displayed a lot of new, modern capabilities, including long-range missiles able to reach all of Europe and the United States, hypersonic missiles, gliders.”

China has in the past shrugged off international efforts to get it to sign up to arms treaties like the now-expired Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This issue was clearly at the heart of NATO’s concerns, with Stoltenberg telling the press that the alliance was addressing how it could include China in future arms control arrangements.

Stoltenberg added: “China is part of some arrangements already. For instance, China is part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“And one of the things we have to do is to make sure that we review that treaty next spring and use that as the, perhaps, most important tool to make sure that we avoid further proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world.”

US President Donald Trump participated in a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel where he spoke about the security risk of Chinese infrastructure projects. Credits: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Ahead of the event, world leaders had signalled alarm at the rise of China with NATO Engages participants raising the issue of China. In the past, the US has called for NATO allies to shun equipment, notably 5G technology,  made by the Chinese tech giant Huawei.

On the subject of infrastructure, after a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel US President Donald Trump responded to a question on allowing Chinese companies to build 5G networks, saying: “Well, I’m not working very hard on that. But I do think it’s a security risk. It’s a security danger.

“And I spoke to Italy, and they look like they’re not going to go forward with that. We spoke to other countries. They’re not going to go forward. Everybody I’ve spoken to is not going forward.”

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