NATO nations have discussed economic measures to contain China’s ‘challenge’ to the Western military alliance, as the United States steps up pressure on its allies to take a tougher line on Beijing.
The alliance’s foreign ministers discussed potential actions on Wednesday, including export controls and ways to protect strategic infrastructure from Chinese investment, in talks that the United States said showed a ” growing convergence” among NATO countries on the issue.
“What we talked about today is . . . working to adapt in a concrete way to meet the challenge,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after the meeting in Bucharest. what we see and what we do… looks at areas where China poses a challenge… and takes appropriate action accordingly.
Blinken said some areas where NATO countries could act included protecting China’s infrastructure and “strategic industries”, and using “export controls” to protect Western technology. Others present at the meeting confirmed that these measures had been discussed.
In recent weeks, the United States has intensified pressure on its NATO allies to come closer to Washington’s more robust approach to China, leveraging its outsized role in supporting to Ukraine and increasing its military presence in Europe this year in the face of Russia’s war against the country.
“What I’ve seen . . . is a growing convergence in approach to the challenges China poses,” Blinken told reporters. “I heard that convergence loud and clear this morning. . . everything I’ve heard today reinforces that.
Many NATO countries, including states like Germany that have close economic ties with China, are less hawkish towards Beijing than the United States, while Hungary has expressed resistance to some of the proposals for Blinken at the Bucharest discussion, two people present told the Financial Times.
“[The US] ain’t stupid, they know they have to take it slow with some members who aren’t there yet,” said one. “Blinken could read the play.”
In a sign of the change in the alliance, NATO held its first dedicated discussion on Taiwan in September, to share intelligence on China’s actions and debate the ways in which a potential military conflict on the island would affect European security. Atlantic.
“We have to recognize that there are behaviors that China engages in that we deeply oppose,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in Bucharest. “It is well understood throughout the NATO alliance.”
Alongside conversations about China taking place within NATO, the EU is also reassessing its attitude toward Beijing, recognizing that its strong economic ties could make it vulnerable to Chinese coercion.
“Allowing China to buy European infrastructure is a mistake. It’s probably good for China, but it’s not good for us,” Antonio Tajani, Italy’s foreign minister, told the FT.
“We live in a global situation. . . It is also important to have a stronger engagement in the Indo-Pacific,” he added. “We have to protect our security.”
Some NATO states, particularly in Eastern Europe, want to prevent the debate over a longer-term approach to China from distracting alliance countries from what they see as a top priority for provide arms, finance and humanitarian support to Ukraine after the invasion of Russia.
Emphasizing that the United States does not want “a new Cold War”, Blinken said NATO is concerned about “China’s use of disinformation, rapid and opaque military build-up, including cooperation with Russia”.
“It’s not about bringing NATO into Asia, in the parlance of NATO acting out of the area,” Blinken said. “These are some of the challenges that China poses in the region.”