US and Nato are in no shape to treat China like a threat or competitor amid crumbling credibility
- Today’s China is a totally different entity from the Soviet Union, and a new cold war with Beijing is not in the West’s interests, given China’s global economic clout and increasing military power
“We are confronted by cyber, space and hybrid and other asymmetric threats, and by the malicious use of emerging and disruptive technologies. We face systemic competition from those, including the People’s Republic of China, who challenge our interests, security, and values and seek to undermine the rules-based international order,” is how the sixth point in the declaration reads.
Third, the whole spectrum of competition in global power structure is not determined by conventional military prowess any more. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence are the main differential advantage that will shape the future line-up of global politics.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was created in 1949 to ostensibly counter the Soviet Union – and later Russia – and this is the first time China has been officially mentioned as a competitor and threat to Nato’s interests, security and values.
The key policy document, which lays out the alliance’s defence and security vision, is revised every 10 years to keep in line with changing global security needs. The mention of China as a “challenge” to Nato’s scope of affairs this time is a new element.
Russian forces have taken control of about 20 per cent of Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainian military – despite having generous financial support and a steady stream of supplies of modern weaponry from the West – is struggling to push the Russians out. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s has seen numerous successes in his war plans so far.
There is one major difference between the China of today and the Soviet Union, or even present-day Russia for that matter. With the exception of a few outposts such as Cuba and Vietnam, the influence of the Soviet Union was confined to a fairly small part of the world and, as such, it was much easier for Nato to monitor and respond to it.
Furthermore, the Soviet Union and its satellites were generally not part of the global community of trade and commerce. Indeed, they had little impact on trade and the global economy.
As far as military capabilities and modern hybrid warfare are concerned, Nato has indirectly acknowledged China’s emergence through its Madrid summit declaration.
China is taking a multipronged approach to ensuring economic growth remains on target and policymakers are continuously modifying and improving the country’s economic defences amid the challenging global political and economic landscape.
China’s economic heft means it is in a position to control and even disrupt global supply chains if it so chooses. For Nato, the message is clear: China is not the Soviet Union, and Nato cannot afford to rekindle a new cold war with Beijing. The alliance’s leadership needs to look at China through a different lens.
Dr Imran Khalid is a freelance contributor based in Karachi, Pakistan