‘Cold War Mentality’: Beijing Irked by China Focus at NATO, Quad, and G7 Meetings

By Patrick Goodenough | February 19, 2021 | 4:06am EST
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg briefs press on the virtual meeting of defense ministers, in Brussels on Thursday. (Photo by Virginia Mayo/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg briefs press on the virtual meeting of defense ministers, in Brussels on Thursday. (Photo by Virginia Mayo/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) –  China responded coolly Thursday to being placed in an unwelcome spotlight at meetings this week of NATO defense ministers and the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific “Quad,” charging that it reflected a “Cold War mentality.”

Still to come: President Joe Biden’s first interaction with fellow G7 leaders, a virtual meeting scheduled for Friday with China again a major focus.

In a virtual meeting, foreign ministers of the Quad countries – the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia – discussed among other things plans “to strengthen cooperation on advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including support for freedom of navigation and territorial integrity,” according to State Department spokesman Ned Price. The readout did not mention China by name, although those are clear references to Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the East and South China Seas.

Meanwhile NATO defense ministers beamed in from their home countries for two days of virtual meeting in Brussels, where among topics were secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg’s proposals for an updated strategic concept for the transatlantic alliance that takes into account “the security consequences of the rise of China.”

Stoltenberg outlined for reporters the need for the “NATO 2030 initiative,” proposals to be unveiled at a summit later this year designed to make the alliance “fit for the future.”

“We need to enhance our political and practical cooperation with like-minded democracies around the world, so we can protect the rules-based order, which is undermined by countries that do not share our values, like Russia and China,” he said.

Stoltenberg said a NATO strategic concept agreed upon in 2010 had served it well, “but since then, the security environment we face has fundamentally changed. For instance, in the current strategic concept, we are not addressing the shifting balance of power and the security consequences of the rise of China.”

At a foreign ministry briefing in Beijing, a reporter with Russia’s state news agency TASS asked spokeswoman Hua Chunying how China felt about – in the reporter’s words – the “development of a new strategic concept of the alliance where Russia and China will be proclaimed NATO's major adversaries.”

“The remarks reveal a Cold War mentality,” she replied. “China is committed to peaceful development and win-win cooperation, a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept, and a defense strategy that is defensive in nature.”

Hua said China upholds world peace and international order, and hopes that “NATO will look at China’s development in an objective, positive and open light and do more things conducive to maintaining regional and international security and stability.”

“Cold War mentality has no future.”

On the Quad ministerial, Hua’s reaction was terse: “It is our hope that cooperation between relevant countries will be open, inclusive and win-win, benefit the world and regional peace and stability and act as a force for good, instead of being used to target any specific country.”

Chinese state media outlets also reacted to the China focus at NATO, the Quad, and at the upcoming G7 event.

“All these meetings have shed light on the Biden administration's strategic plans – the U.S. would not alter its perception of seeing China as its main competitor or going further to contain China,” said the Chinese Communist Party paper, Global Times.

It quoted Chen Fengying, a research fellow at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, as saying that while the U.S. and European allies will continue to criticize China over issues like Xinjiang and Hong Kong, they will not likely change their stance on the need to cooperate economically with China.

Concerning the Quad forum, Chen warned that China should remain on high alert over what she called a U.S. attempt to build a “little NATO,” drawing in partners like Japan and India to pressure China in military and advanced technologies. 

Other Chinese analysts said while the Western “pushback” would likely have the effect of pushing China and Russia even closer together, it would not succeed due to economic realities, noting that China is the European Union’s biggest trading partner and Russia is an important provider of energy supplies to Europe.

 “Due to shared concerns over China and Russia’s development, the U.S. and Europe would find some common ground, but when it comes to concrete interests, E.U. member states are unlikely to totally obey Washington,” said Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

In relation to the Quad meeting, China Daily, also a CCP organ, said in an editorial the Biden administration has “seized the trowel from its predecessor and is mortaring bricks in an attempt to build a seawall with which to protect its regional influence and hegemony.”

“Although the U.S. president once pointed out that the United States is ready to hold frank and constructive conversations with China to strengthen mutual understanding and avoid misjudgment, the promotion of the Quad, among other things, belies those words,” it said. China Daily added that if the U.S. “really wants to avoid conflict, it is the one that needs to stop what it is doing and undo what it has already done.”

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