At the recent NATO foreign ministers’ meeting, China was on the front burner. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg noted that China is not considered by NATO to be an adversary, but that China’s rise has direct consequences for alliance security. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken listed China first when speaking of major power threats to other countries. China will have a prominent place in NATO’s emerging new Strategic Concept. But many of America’s trans-Atlantic partners still take a fairly narrow view of China’s military impact on the alliance.
The focus tends to be on security aspects of Chinese investments in European infrastructure, the vulnerability of defense supply chains containing material made in China, the consequences of Chinese technology embedded in communications systems, China’s political influence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, and small-scale Chinese naval exercises in European waters. Europe is now taking constructive steps to deal with many of these critical problems, but NATO also needs to open its aperture beyond Europe as it assesses the broader security challenge posed by China.
A report released recently by the Atlantic Council, called “The China Plan: A Transatlantic Blueprint for Strategic Competition,” makes the case that this Euro-centric view misses four interrelated elements that could have a profound impact on NATO.