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NATO Must Ready Itself for Long-Term Competition with China, Says Stoltenberg

Europe made a mistake by relying on Russian oil and gas, and the mistake cannot be repeated with China, the NATO chief said.

NATO must organize and prepare for enduring competition with China’s reigning communist regime, according to the alliance’s top diplomat.

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) continued military modernization and infiltration of infrastructure projects throughout the world are the greatest long-term threats to international peace and stability, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“We must organize ourselves for enduring competition with China,” Mr. Stoltenberg said during a Feb. 1 talk at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“China is modernizing its military and developing new weapons without any transparency or any limitation. It is trading unfairly, buying up critical infrastructure, bullying its neighbors, not least Taiwan, and seeking to dominate the South China Sea.”

Mr. Stoltenberg added that China’s communist leadership was increasingly coordinating with Russia, Iran, and North Korea as part of a wider attempt to create “an alternative world order where U.S. power is diminished, NATO is divided, and smaller democracies are forced to kneel.”

“They are threatening our free world. They are openly contesting American power. And [it’s] not just America. They are trying to trample over the global rules that keep us all safe.”

NATO Waking Up to China Threat

Mr. Stoltenberg said that NATO leaders had helped the rest of Europe to better understand the challenges posed by the CCP, though admitted they too were slow to accept the extent of the threat.

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To that end, he acknowledged the Trump administration’s 2017 shift in China policy as a wake-up call that has stirred the alliance to action.

He vowed that NATO leaders would not make the same mistake with Beijing that they did with Moscow when they refused to heed President Trump’s warning about dependence on Russian oil.

“Europe made a mistake to rely on Russian oil and gas,” Mr. Stoltenberg said. “We cannot repeat that same mistake with China. Dependencies make us vulnerable.”

Mr. Stoltenberg acknowledged that the United States had been “right” to criticize NATO members in Europe for not investing enough in defense. That was changing now, he said, with defense expenditures higher across the board and some nations, like Poland, spending higher percentages of their GDP on defense than even the United States.

In a bid to garner continued U.S. support for NATO, Mr. Stoltenberg also portrayed the alliance as a vital tool for advancing U.S. interests and power against the machinations of increasingly aligned authoritarian powers.

“NATO is an incredibly powerful idea that advances U.S. interests and multiplies America’s power,” he said.

“China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are increasingly aligned. Together they subvert sanctions and pressure, weaken the U.S. dollar-based international financial system, fuel Russian war in Europe, and exploit challenges for our societies.”

Biden Admin Seeks Competition and Cooperation with China

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also spoke on the issue of China this week, underscoring the administration’s position that China presents a “pacing challenge,” but complete decoupling from its economy is not feasible.

“We determined that [China] was the only state with both the intent to reshape the international order and the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it,” Mr. Sullivan said during a talk hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

“We are clear-eyed about the competitive structural dynamics in our relationship with [China], but we are also keenly aware that the United States and [China] are economically interdependent and share interests in addressing transnational problems.”

Mr. Sullivan highlighted the Biden administration’s China strategy of “invest, align, compete,” and emphasized that the nation should focus on building alliances of lasting mutual benefit rather than merely countering China.

“We cannot treat the rest of the world as proxy battlegrounds the way that I think the U.S. and Soviet Union too often did during the Cold War,” Mr. Sullivan said.

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