The just concluded NATO Summit in Brussels has sent a disturbing message on China, a message that could trigger an arms race and undermine world peace. While its rhetoric against China seems less harsh than against Russia, the fact that China featured prominently for the first time on its agenda and in its communique is disquieting.
Although NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO does not see China as an adversary, he repeatedly exaggerated the challenges posed by China to the existing world order due to its growing international role and widening global influence.
Stoltenberg alleged that China's stated ambition and assertive behavior pose a systemic challenge to the rules-based international order, and expressed concern over China's rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, sophisticated delivery system and "military cooperation" with Russia, especially in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Needless to say these allegations are groundless.
What's wrong in China pursuing military modernization as part of its overall national modernization? China's defense budget accounts for 1.3 percent of its GDP, compared with the 2 percent threshold for 30 NATO member states, and the monstrous US defense budget of 3.7 percent of GDP in 2020, which was higher than the combined budgets of the next 10 countries.
What's wrong in China modernizing its nuclear arsenal given its well-known minimum deterrence policy? China's 300 nuclear warheads are a fraction of the 6,000 massed up by the United States. Not to mention the US also maintains about 800 military bases around the world, many in China's neighborhood.
What's wrong in Chinese and Russian militaries sharing friendly relations given that they have never jointly invaded or bombed any sovereign nation? And if NATO member states can dispatch their military vessels to the South China Sea, why can't Chinese navy ships sail into the Atlantic?
May 7 marked the 22nd anniversary of the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Yet NATO's most nefarious acts in recent memory are its 20-year war in Afghanistan and regime change in Libya in 2011, condemning both countries to ruins. China has done nothing even remotely as destructive. Had China joined NATO in those atrocious missions, Stoltenberg probably wouldn't have accused it of not sharing Western values or of posing a challenge to the West.
The allegation that China presents "systemic challenges to the rules-based international order" couldn't be further from the truth. China has been a responsible member of the United Nations, as well as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Being the largest peacekeeping troop contributor among the five permanent UN Security Council members, China is committed to global peace and stability. And it doesn't export any ideology or political system. Instead, it adheres to a non-interventionist and basically a non-alignment policy.
The plain truth is that the US-led NATO is trying to create an anti-China miasma, in order to further increase its defense spending and boost its military prowess. Stoltenberg did exactly that when he tried to justify the NATO's 2030 Agenda.
By doing what NATO members have done, China could bolster its defense budget to 2 percent or even 3.7 percent on par with the US. Or, it could double its nuclear arsenal to 600 warheads, which even then would be just 10 percent of the US stockpile. In this sense, the NATO's agenda could trigger an arms race.
But despite the US' and now NATO's reckless warmongering, China has remained cool-headed. There has been no drastic increase in its military budget. By contrast, it has boosted investments in infrastructure such as high-speed railways.
It's no secret that many NATO members don't share the US' Cold War approach to China. So they shouldn't risk being hijacked by the US, especially because Europe knows full well the pain, suffering and destruction wars can cause.
The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.