How China's Xi Jinping Is Trying to Stop 'Asian NATO'

Chinese leader Xi Jinping's new proposal for sustaining global peace emphasizes the UN-centered international order, but is driven by a desire to ensure the West's standoff with Moscow doesn't repeat itself in Asia.

Xi articulated his "global security initiative" at an economic forum last week—an unmistakable move to mold the world's approach to war and peace in his country's favor, proposed on the back of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It includes Beijing's commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states; to the principles of the UN Charter and the peaceful resolution of disputes; and the otherwise nebulous concept of "sustainable security."

The first hints of the challenge to the Western-led global order appeared in authoritative Chinese Communist Party publications in the past few weeks, and it has now been formalized by Xi as an official government line. While details of the six-point initiative remain vague, a clear outline is forming; the plan's many layers were peeled back by Chinese officials this week.

On Sunday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi turned to the pages of the CCP's flagship newspaper, the People's Daily, to interpret Xi's direction into five new policy guidelines.

The "authority and status of the United Nations" are to be upheld, as are peace talks and "political solutions to hotspot issues," he wrote. China seeks to coordinate efforts to address traditional and non-traditional "security threats," while promoting a balanced economic recovery, he said.

International Security Challenges

"Striving for building a new regional security framework and jointly safeguarding peace and stability in Asia," the diplomat wrote, was the final objective of Xi's proposal, which he said "contributes Chinese wisdom to make up for the human peace deficit, and provides a Chinese solution to cope with international security challenges."

Wang Wenbin, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, further elaborated on Xi's vision for Asia on Monday.

"We firmly oppose the division of the region by so-called 'Indo-Pacific' strategies, and oppose the piecing together of an 'Asian NATO' through military alliances," he said, drawing the clearest line between Xi's new proposal and China's plans to stifle U.S.-led efforts to consolidate its bilateral and trilateral alliances in Asia.

The Chinese government has been unequivocal in its belief that NATO, led by the United States, is to blame for Russia's decision to attack Ukraine. The position suggests strong concerns that the West could intervene in its own attempts to secure a sphere of influence in the future.

In Asia, the Chinese leadership sees the U.S.'s strengthening the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, elevating the Quad, creating AUKUS and revitalizing bilateral defense treaties in what has been called America's "5, 4, 3, 2" formation as all aimed at China. Its political support for the Kremlin, therefore, should be read in the context of Beijing's wider rivalry with Washington, and especially its anxieties about American intentions and their implications for China's long-term growth.

How Beijing plans to convince regional neighbors to buy in to its new security order remains to be seen, but there's little doubt its outreach will begin in its immediate surroundings, where many smaller countries, economically reliant on China, have tried to avoid taking sides in the conflict in Europe.

China's Xi Jinping Opposes 'Asian NATO'
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends an event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 18, 2013. Xi, eyeing an unprecedented third term as leader in the fall of 2022, proposed a “global security initiative” on April 21 that seeks to undermine U.S.-led alliance building in Asia. Feng Li/Getty Images/Getty