China Tells NATO to Stay Out of Asia

China told NATO on Monday to focus its attention on transatlantic issues, raising objections to the deployment of foreign military vessels and aircraft near the country in recent years.

In their first formal dialogue since a tense exchange of statements in June, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to take a "rational and objective view" of Beijing. Both parties should avoid "misinformation, lies and rumors," Wang said, without elaborating.

"China has not been, and will not be, a rival to NATO," Wang added. In a statement carried by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, the talks were described as "positive and constructive."

Stoltenberg returned the sentiment with the assurance that the transatlantic alliance "does not see China as an adversary," before calling on China "to uphold its international commitments and act responsibly in the international system," according to a NATO readout on its website.

Stoltenberg raised the group's continued concerns over "China's coercive policies," while pressing the Chinese official on his country's "expanding nuclear arsenal" as well as its opaque military spending and modernization.

"The Secretary General urged China to engage meaningfully in dialogue, confidence-building and transparency measures regarding its nuclear capabilities and doctrine," said NATO, which also released a Mandarin version of its statement, but large parts—including Stoltenberg's concerns—didn't appear in the Chinese Foreign Ministry's readout.

Wang expressed Beijing's opposition to "close-in" operations around China by ships and planes belonging to NATO members. His objections, which didn't single out any particular nation, failed to feature in the group's statement either.

"The Asia-Pacific region does not need new military blocs, nor should there be confrontation between major powers, even less cliques designed to incite a new Cold War," Wang said. "NATO should adhere to its original geographic positioning."

Holding the Taliban Accountable

Beijing has been highly critical of U.S.-led NATO operations in Afghanistan, particularly following last month's hasty withdrawal. China has retained embassy services in Kabul and has looked favorably upon the Taliban's new government.

Stoltenberg and Wang touched on Afghanistan, with the former expressing NATO's expectation for China to jointly "hold the Taliban accountable for their commitments on countering terrorism and upholding human rights, not least the rights of women."

Beijing, meanwhile, is most concerned with the Taliban's relations with Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities groups that have opposed its governance in northwestern China, where the two countries share a short, mountainous border.

NATO policy traditionally centers on Russia's perceived threat to Europe, but the alliance made multiple references to concerns surrounding China's ambitions when President Joe Biden visited its headquarters in Brussels in June. The NATO communique, which elicited a strong response from Beijing, reflected majority views on China's military growth, but especially its increased political influence across the globe.

The North Atlantic military bloc nonetheless remains focused on Europe, while members—most notably France—have questioned whether NATO and China have anything to do with one another at all.

But as Biden continues to rally American allies for what he has framed as a fight between democracy and authoritarianism, China will want to avoid alienating another security-oriented bloc, in spite of ongoing strife with some of its key members including the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.

China Tells NATO To Focus On Atlantic
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (top) meets China's Foreign Ministry Wang Yi for a virtual dialogue on September 27, 2021. NATO