Beijing’s Lesson from Russia-Ukraine War: Don’t Ever Let NATO-like Organization Come up Near China
An explicitly anti-communist alliance created at the dawn of the Cold War, NATO evolved into the most ferociously powerful military alliance in world history. The Warsaw Pact was created in 1955 to counter it. Now, as Russia has been trapped into initiating Europe’s worst war crisis since WWII, some Chinese analysts are claiming the post-Cold War era has been replaced with a New “New Cold War.” With no one to counter NATO, the least the Chinese are gearing up to is to never let NATO-like organization ever come up near or surround China.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, was born in the same year as the New China – 1949. Let us stop looking at the factual history of the two as a mere coincidence. Period. Indeed NATO was created to protect Western Europe from the Soviet communism, and a communist China was nowhere in the picture then. According to a NATO critic, “It [NATO] was designed to keep the Russians out and the US in. It was an explicit anti-communist alliance of capitalist liberal democracies.
Combining the industrial might of the Western Europe revived by Marshall Plan aid and the US military-industrial complex, it became the most ferociously powerful military alliance in world history.” Fast forward to present times. For the first time the Chinese have been alarmed by the destructiveness and viciousness of NATO. Following the Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine, analysts in Beijing are sounding alarm bells that the hegemonic (NATO) is fast piecing together its Asian version.
It was this fear of NATO when the new Biden administration displayed unprecedented expediency and announced the re-birth of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue in March 2021, the Chinese started calling it “anti-China” mini-NATO. Also or better known as the Quad, it is an informal strategic forum comprising four nations, namely – United States of America (USA), India, Australia and Japan.
In fact, the hurriedly coming together of the four Quad nations was initiated by Trump-Pompeo in the election year 2020. On October 6 two years ago, the foreign ministers from the US, India, Japan and Australia gathered in Tokyo to launch a new alliance in the Asia-Pacific aimed at meeting the challenge of an aggressive China.
Referring to the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s statement issued the day before Quad foreign ministers’ meet was inaugurated in Tokyo, a Shanghai-based Chinese scholar had noted: Pompeo’s words confirmed China’s suspicion the (Tokyo) Quad meeting would be the beginning of an “anti-China coalition” to contain China’s rise.
Although following the birth of the notional term “Indo-Pacific” under the Trump presidency and the “revival” as well as elevation of the so-called loose, informal outfit Quad by President Biden into a serious security dialogue mechanism under the Quad countries’ top leaders, there has been a “mad spree” of writings by China’s strategic affairs community.
Yet the Chinese experts and policy makers alike became more worried with the new outfit following the NATO leaders’ official warning to Beijing last June that “China’s ‘coercive’ practices and expanding nuclear arsenal are a systematic threat and need to be tackled…” [My emphasis] According to reports, this was the first time in the 72-year old history of the European military alliance that it openly and bluntly named China as a direct threat.
Interestingly, analysts in China not only rejected the false (according to Beijing) premise built up by NATO that China’s strategic partnership “alliance” with Russia was being perceived as China becoming a greater threat and challenge to Brussels.
As a recent Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) paper has claimed: “China’s military reach is getting closer to the Euro-Atlantic region. Even though China does not pose a direct military threat to NATO…We have to address the fact that China is coming closer to us.”
The real reason according to a Chinese analyst why China fears NATO is the hegemonic designs of the North Atlantic organization – especially targeting China. “Its [NATO] grand conspiracy is to obstruct and destroy the development of emerging countries and maintain the global dominance of the Western world,” as recently observed by Zhang Zhikun.
Zhang’s observation finds echo in what Gregory Elich, one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, describes as “NATO-style deindustrialization” of the NATO bombing against Yugoslavia. “One of the main features of NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 was the deliberate targeting of factories and manufacturing plants. Moreover, there was no military value in the facilities that NATO chose to destroy,” Elich wrote.
The apparent intent of the NATO bombing was to drive much of the population into destitution and make people more amenable to demands to install government eager to do the West’s bidding, Elich further added.
Why Should NATO Target China?
It is pertinent to point out that the stated rationale of NATO’s existence was to stop a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. But as we know, and as had been argued by many, “the only problem with the rationale was that the Soviet Union never had the slightest interest in doing so.”
Likewise, today’s offensive NATO’s stated raison d’etre of targeting China is to save countries in East and Southeast Asia against a possible Chinese invasion. However, just as in the case of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China too is least interested in invading any country in the region, including Taiwan. Yet in recent years China has become the target of NATO.
To some security affairs analysts in the West, the only reason NATO has decided to target China “is like the proverbial reason to climb the mountain: it is there. It is big. And the US must be on top of everything.” [My emphasis]
However, to most analysts in China, there are more than proverbial reasons why NATO has been targeting China. As Zhang Zhiken has pointed out in his article, the targeting of China by NATO started after the annual gathering of NATO leaders in 2019 in London, which was called the “NATO 70th Anniversary” summit. At the summit, as if suddenly the agenda was turned to China’s “peaceful rise” developmental strategy.
Thenin June 2020, addressing the Atlantic Council and the Marshall Foundation meetings, the NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg said: “China’s rise has fundamentally altered the global balance of power and intensified the struggle for economic and technological supremacy.” That was not all, as in October last year, according to Zhang Zhiken, the NATO states defence ministers’ meeting adopted a new strategy called – Euro-Atlantic Concept of Deterrence and Defence.
The EACDD targeted China as its strategic threat declaring that China has adopted cyber capabilities, emerging technologies and weaponry “which have implications for European security.”
Does China have a strategy to combat NATO?
In an interview with the Financial Timeslast October, NATO general-secretary had said that while China was not an “adversary,” it was having an impact on European security. “The [NATO] military alliance has spent decades focused on countering Russia. The new focus on China comes amid a determined shift in the US’s geopolitical orientation away from Europe to a hegemonic conflict with China,” Stoltenberg added. Stoltenberg did not stop at that.
Further targeting China, he said, NATO will adopt its new Strategic Concept at a summit next summer (that is, this year in summer), which will outline the alliance’s China strategy for the following 10 years. This shifting of NATO strategy with focus on China is something which Zbigniew Brzezinski had rather bluntly defined in his influential book The Grand Chessboard (1993) saying, NATO is one of many institutions serving to perpetuate American hegemony.
It is in this above context, some Chinese analystshave been emphasising that China has maintained a “neutral” stance in the Russia-Ukraine war. At the same time, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s most recent statement, issued at the conclusion of “two sessions” last Monday, too needs to be viewed in this perspective.
In other words, the raison d’etre why China is not only not condemning the Russian invasion in Ukraine but consistently asking the West and the US to give up the Cold War mentality is: “The target of NATO’s aggression [in Ukraine] is not aimed at Russia, but also further aimed at China. NATO has clearly set China as an imaginary enemy.”
More importantly, in the words of a Chinese analyst, the hegemonic military alliance has already started building an Indo-Pacific version of NATO, in order to surround China, with Western countries at its core in the form of first Quad and then AUKUS. At present, China does not possess means and tools to directly contain the eastward expansion of NATO.
But China can achieve its goal of restricting NATO by vigorously supporting all the countries in the region who oppose the North Atlantic hegemonic alliance’s eastward expansion, the analyst explained.
As was also noticed in a report by the BBC. Referring to the joint statement issued by China and Russia in Beijing during the summit meeting between Xi and Putin at the opening of the Olympics, the report cited a Chinese military affairs commentator Wang Yunfei, who said, “In the Xi-Putin joint statement, China expressed its position on European security issues, especially on the expansion of NATO. The decision made by China should be seen as [China’s] major strategic choice.”