Shifting China-NATO Relations: From Selective Cooperation to Strategic Rivalry?
On March 15, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg called on China to withdraw its support for Russia and to condemn its “brutal” invasion of Ukraine (NATO, March 15). The next day, the nationalistic state media outlet Global Times issued a scathing criticism of NATO as a “puppet” of the United States that is “stained with blood” (Global Times, March 16). China’s aversion to NATO is hardly new. However, as China continues to rise and the global center of gravity shifts to the Indo-Pacific region, Beijing’s fears that U.S. is seeking to establish an “Asian NATO” via partnerships like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), have also increased (China Daily, June 6, 2004; Global Times, October 11, 2020). Concurrently, China’s exponential rise, its coercive behavior and Beijing’s ‘special’ relationship with Moscow have significantly altered its relationship with NATO.
This article analyzes the drivers of the recent disconnect between NATO and China, especially given Beijing’s ambivalent position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In doing so, this piece seeks to answer the following questions: are Beijing’s fears of NATO expanding or replicating in the Indo-Pacific legitimate? Will the “no-limits” China-Russia friendship test existing U.S.-led Indo-Pacific security coalitions?
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