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HomeDOCUMENTSCommittee Reports2011 Annual Session183 PC 11 E rev. 1 final - THE RISE OF CHINA AND POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS FOR NATO


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1.       Over the last 30 years the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has risen to become a major regional and global power. China has the world's largest population, second largest economy, and it has become the world’s largest consumer of energy.  The PRC also has the third largest nuclear arsenal and numerically largest army.  Parallel to its dramatic economic progressChinahas begun to pursue a more active foreign policy; its participation in global political and security debates, many of which impact directly and indirectly on NATO security concerns, is increasing. China’s rise has therefore numerous implications for theAlliance. Yet to date the organisation has paid only little attention to the issue.  This report briefly examinesChina’s Foreign and Security Policy as well as issues of common concern forChina and NATO.  It suggests that theAllianceand NATO should engage in more regular contact which should primarily be geared towards providing increased institutional transparency and information.  Given the fact that both sides share a range of common security concerns,China and NATO could explore opportunities for gradual, limited policy co-ordination, possibly together with other NATO partners.




2.      China’s evolving role in international affairs is largely determined by the complex and continuous change that is occurring within the country. Chinais a nation in transition.  On the one hand, as the world’s fastest growing major economy,Chinahas considerable economic clout.  On the other, GDP per capita remains far behind that of the world’s other major economies. Chinais still a developing country by many measures, yet owing to the vast size of its national GDP and its phenomenal rate of economic growth, it is already a global power in some areas.  Internally,Chinastill advocates socialism but in reality has strong capitalist characteristics.  While the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) retains its monopoly on power and maintains strict control over the people, it is facing growing demands for internal reform from various elements of Chinese society.  Within the CCP itself, the leadership transition in 2012 and competing factions further complicate matters.  The world is now watching an increasingly complex, partially contradictory China; outwardly confident and powerful and at times perceived as assertive, but also an inwardly confused country that needs to address its internal challenges.


3.       Evidence of China’s growing economic and financial clout is easy to identify. Since 2006, nominal GDP has more than doubled to US$4,909 billion in 2009 makingChinathe world’s second largest national economy with 12.56% of the world’s GDP. According to official Chinese figures,China’s GDP has grown by 10.3% in 2010.  Chinese GDP per capita has increased sevenfold since 1978 and has now reached US$7,518.Chinais the world’s leading exporter; its trade surplus was US$196.1 billion in 2009 and US$183 billion in 2010, the highest in the world, as are its inward Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and foreign exchange reserves. China’s sovereign wealth funds are also the highest in the world, at an estimated US$825 billion as of September 2010.Chinais now a key source of capital and FDI in the Middle East, Africa andLatin Americaand has proved itself adept at acquiring access to these regions’ natural resources.  At the end of 2010,China’s estimated currency reserves added up to US$2.8 trillion.Chinais also the world’s most important lending nation.  For example, the Treasury Department reported on 28 February 2011 thatChinaheld US$1.16 trillion of debt at the end of 2010. Chinahas also bought government bonds from Greece,SpainandPortugal.  However, while the PRC plays an increasingly important and positive role in the world economy there is also friction. China, which resisted calls to devalue the renminbi, has been accused of manipulating the exchange rate to boost its exports.  Other indicators, such as high technological development, or the fact that it is producing the world’s highest carbon dioxide emissions confirmChina’s position as a global industrial powerhouse.


4.       As impressive as these economic and financial indicators are, these statistics must be seen in context.  There is still a large gap between it and the world’s largest economy, theUnited States.  Moreover, asChina’s economy relies heavily on exports, the country is vulnerable to global economic trends.  Although China's double-digit economic growth over the past two decades has benefited large parts of the population there are huge economic and social disparities across urban, rural and regional divides.  These put a heavy burden on the country’s cohesion and the Chinese express concern about increasing food costs, unaffordable housing, as well as high costs for health and education.  The CCP remains heavily reliant on continued economic growth to retain popular approval and appears sensitive to the complaints.  Accordingly, the Chinese government’s new five-year plan (2011-2015) foresees lower annual GDP growth and puts more emphasis on income balance.  Recognising that corruption remains a major challenge, the government has announced the strengthening of anti-corruption efforts in key areas such as construction.

5.      China’s economic ascendancy has allowed it to feature more prominently in international affairs.  At the international institutional level, China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) with veto power. Beijing is also playing a more prominent role in the UN and has strengthened its commitment to UN peacekeeping operations, primarily in Africa, but also in Haiti and Lebanon. China enjoys growing influence in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the G20 and the G77, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and regional security institutions such as the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO).  Moreover, at the 2010 Copenhagen Summit, China emerged as a crucial global player due to its high carbon dioxide emissions.  On the other hand, China continues to maintain close relations with nations like Burma and North Korea and has also been criticised for its involvement with undemocratic African regimes. China also has relatively good relations withIran and there has been some concern thatChina has assisted countries likeIran and Pakistan in the development of nuclear programmes. China has sold and exchanged its weapons withIran for oil, including potentially strategically significant Silkworm anti-ship missiles.      


6.      China’s “soft power” is also on the increase.  While the PRC remains a foreign aid recipient country it has moved towards being an important donor country.  According to a 2009 report by the US Congressional Research Service,China’s aid to Africa, Latin America andSouth-East Asiaincreased from less than US$1 billion in 2002 to an estimated US$25 billion in 2007.  A major part of the PRC’s infrastructure and public works projects in African and Latin American countries focus on natural resource development and serveChina’s long-term economic interests.  The picture is slightly different in South-East Asia, where China’s foreign aid activities reflect longer-term diplomatic and strategic objectives.


7.       The PRC is intensifying its sphere of influence in other parts of the world, includingAfrica. Chinahas provided “no strings” investment to Zimbabwe and Sudan, and has signed large contracts to help develop the Democratic Republic of Congo,Tanzania and Ethiopiain return for access to resources, a key tenet of the “Beijing Consensus”.  On the one hand, Chinese aid and investment in infrastructure are bringing desperately needed capital to the continent. On the other, however, strong Chinese demand for oil is contributing to an increase in the import bill for many oil-importing Sub-Saharan African countries, and China’s exports threaten local African production.  Therefore, whilst benefiting the continent in many ways, China poses a challenge to both good governance and macroeconomic management in Africa as well.




8.       In its foreign policy,Chinafocuses on furthering domestic economic development through international co-operation and on promoting peace and stability by cultivating ties with other nations on an equal basis. Chinahas repeatedly and publicly committed itself to “the path of peaceful development” which State Councillor Dai Bingguo defined in a recent article as “the pursuit of harmony and development at home as well as the pursuit of peace and co-operation in our external relations”. In December 2010 Mr Dai Bingguo outlinedChina’s “core interests” as: 

  • “The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the socialist system, and the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics”;
  • “The sovereignty and security, territorial integrity, and national unity ofChina”; and
  • “The sustained development of the economy and society ofChina”.


9.       Mr Dai Bingguo also warned that “the violation and destruction of these interests will not be tolerated”. Chinese leaders have recognised that the next 10 years represent an “important period of strategic opportunity” during which the country must “ceaselessly increaseChina’s comprehensive national power, improve (its) people’s lives, and promote social harmony”. The CCP also realises that “never before has China been so closely bound up with the rest of the world as it is today”, and that China now has expanding influence and reach. 


10.     Parallel to its growing international influence the PRC is also rapidly expanding its military capabilities.  The collective Chinese defensive and offensive military forces form the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which includes strategic missile, land, sea and air forces.  Total active force strength in 2010 was 2,285,000, 1.6 million of which were army personnel, making the PLA the largest army in the world.  Reservists and paramilitary forces take total numbers under arms inChinato over 3 million, a key fact in understandingChina’s internal dynamics.  Moreover,Chinais a nuclear weapon state under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a signatory of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. In 2010 estimates put Chinese nuclear missile stocks at 442, of which 66 are long range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).  The PLA, and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in particular, have enjoyed significant investment in military hardware and technology since the mid-1980s.  As a result,Chinais gradually closing the gap in military technology with the West as the recent unveiling of the new J-20 stealth combat aircraft has demonstrated.  All branches of the PLA are being modernised andBeijingis gradually building up military power projection capabilities.  Although hard to determine exactly, Chinese defence expenditure has risen steadily during the last decade, and in March 2010Beijingannounced a 7.5% increase in its military budget to approximately US$78.6 billion.  As the 1989 EU arms embargo remains in force,China’s state owned and defence-related industries continue to modernise and gain expertise in military research, development and acquisition to facilitate its goal of creating a wholly indigenous defence industrial sector.      


11.     The PLA’s Air Force capabilities have been strengthened by new combat aircraft like the multi-role Sukhoi SU-30 and the introduction of in-flight refuelling tankers and AWACS aircraft.  Moreover, the PRC is developing anti-satellite and cyber-war capabilities. Beijing is also pursuing the modernisation of the PLAN into a “blue water” navy.  In this context it is developing a new generation of warships and aircraft to give it much longer-range capabilities.  The main rationale for this emphasis is, apart from the possibility of a military conflict withTaiwan, the increasing need to protect the PRC’s sea lines of communications to secure the country’s global network of energy resources and trading activities.  The PLA has also been modernised and has become smaller and more capable with improved mobility and firepower.  That said, despite the introduction of new weapons systems into its inventory, the major part of its equipment is still obsolete in terms of technology and design.  Overall, the ongoing modernisation of all branches of the PLA has generated considerable uneasiness among its immediate neighbours and has led to increased defence investments in other Asian states. 


12.    China’s continued rise has meant that its pursuit of its ‘core interests’ has begun to be felt both regionally and globally.  Much uncertainty surroundsChina’s intentions as to the use of its growing military power, but there are some discernible strategic consistencies inChina’s conceptualisation of its use of force.  These are related to the defence of a continental power with increasing maritime interests and unresolved territorial claims and include, in order of priority: regime security, territorial integrity, national unification, maritime security and regional stability. China’s developing force structure for internal control, peripheral denial and limited force projection capabilities are consistent with meeting these objectives.  However, some commentators have argued that there is a growing divergence between stated Chinese foreign policy and the reality of Chinese actions on the international stage since 2008.   


13.     Chinahas territorial disputes with a number of neighbouring countries and its increased confidence and assertiveness has strained its relationships with regional neighbours, especially Japan, in the last year.  Continuing disputes with Taiwanover its ultimate sovereignty (the PRC claims the entire island as its sovereign territory) and with Vietnamand Taiwanover the Spratly and Paracel islands have been heightened by China’s demonstration of its growing military power.  In June 2011 tensions between Vietnamand Chinafurther escalated with both countries conducting military manoeuvres near the resource-rich Spratlys[1].  In May 2011, Philippines’ President Aquino warned of a possible arms race developing over the islands that are also disputed by the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei[2]. The recent responses by Tokyo, Taipei, Hanoi and Washington to the increasing size and capability of the PLAN, especially in relation to the strategically important Malacca Straits, have also highlighted tensions.  In September 2010 the collision between Japanese Coast Guard vessels and a Chinese fishing trawler re-ignited concerns about the increasing territorial expansion of Chinese “core interests”.  China’s intense pressure on Japan to release the Chinese trawler captain was an action that many analysts saw as disproportionate and indicative of a new assertive Chinese foreign policy.  It also forced theUnited States to clarify its support forJapan, demonstrating the complexity and instability of Sino-US relations, which were further strained by disagreements over how to addressNorth Korea in 2010.


14. On the other hand, there have been welcome agreements on maritime conduct between China and other ASEAN states in the South China Sea recently.[3]  While the wider implications of the Japanese earthquake on Sino-Japanese relations remain to be seen, initially there has been a positive impact.[4]  In the wake of the Japanese triple disaster, China sent an unprecedented 20,000 tons of supplies and numerous rescue teams to Japan to assist in the relief efforts.  Importantly, this response has not been limited to the state, but also local and provincial municipalities, individual citizens and China’s Red Cross”, thereby increasing a sense of solidarity between populations.  Thus, analysts point out that the disaster could come to represent a reset button for previously deteriorating Sino-Japanese relations[5] or may just indicate a temporary thawing.[6]

15.     In contrast to Sino-US relations, Sino-Russian relations have continued to improve in many areas over the last two decades, especially in the energy sector. In September 2010, President Medvedev visited Beijing for high level talks on advancing bilateral ties as the Chinese Ambassador toMoscow declared that relations between the neighbours were “now at their best in history”.  In November, both countries agreed to quit the dollar to facilitate bilateral trade, and signed various documents on energy co-operation, aviation, railroad construction, customs, protecting intellectual property, culture as well as a joint communiqué.  Reflecting this closer co‑operation and mutual interest, a new oil pipeline between Siberia and North-Eastern China opened in January 2011. Diplomatically, mutually supportive joint statements calling for a “multipolar order” reflect both nations’ understanding that they speak more powerfully when they speak together.  In the past, both countries have also used parallel vetoes in the UN Security Council to block censure ofBurma andIran.  However, political differences still exist in the Russia-Sino relationship over wider economic and defence issues.


16.     For over a decade, Russian military exports toChinahave constituted the most important dimension of the evolving relationship between these nations.  According to one estimate, between 1992 and 2006, the total value of Russian arms exports toChina amounted to approximately US$26 billion worth of military equipment and weapons. However, as the indigenous Chinese defence industry becomes increasingly capable, Russiafaces the prospect of declining sales or of supplying more advanced weapon systems toChina, such as ballistic missiles, with possible implications for wider Asian security.China and Russia also operate officer and unit exchange programmes and military exercises together.  Previously, bothBeijingandMoscowhave been critical of US and NATO ballistic missile defence plans inCentral Europe.  The two powers share mutual interests in space, having called on the UNSC to tackle the militarisation of space.  However,Russiahas been reluctant to aidChina’s space defence system due to its own security concerns about doing so.




17.     Contact betweenChinaand theAllianceis a relatively recent development.  NATO-China relations were non-existent during the Cold War and for most of the 1990s.  The accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy inBelgradeduring the 1999 Kosovo air campaign was sharply criticised by senior Chinese officials and led to strong nationalistic public outbursts against one NATO ally and theAllianceas a whole.  The episode did not, however, have any lasting negative impact on China-NATO relations. 


18.     In the timely context of NATO’s developing engagement inAfghanistan,Chinabegan to show interest in the commitments of theAlliancecloser to its borders.  In 2002 the Chinese Ambassador met with then NATO Secretary General to inquire about NATO’s structures and tasks as well as its engagements, particularly in Afghanistan.  Since then, NATO and China have gradually developed a political dialogue, focusing on the exchange of information and on issues of co-operative security.  These issues include terrorism, maritime piracy, international security, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, and crisis management.  Following the visit of the Director General of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to NATO Headquarters in 2007, the political dialogue on senior staff level has been taking place on a rather regular basis.  The NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy has visited China twice, the last visit dating back to July 2010.


19.     The political dialogue was further strengthened by the visit of Deputy NATO Secretary General Claudio Bisogniero to China in November 2009.  The exchanges with senior Chinese officials, including Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, covered a wide range of issues relating to shared security interests of NATO and China.  Among the topics that were discussed were the stability of Afghanistan and Central Asia, the fight against terrorism and the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as maritime piracy.  This has resulted in the agreement that the NATO-China dialogue has a role in contributing to international stability and prosperity.  Both sides share the general view that NATO andChinashould work towards developing a relationship in a spirit of open communication and increasing co-operation. 


20.     Contact between NATO and China has gradually developed on the political level.  NATO has not established a formal partnership with China and the political dialogue that has taken place has been conducted with full transparency, regarding NATO’s existing formal partnerships.  Chinese representatives have participated in a limited number of NATO seminars and conferences.  What is more, NATO has decided to open courses at NATO education facilities to representatives from countries who have expressed interest.  For example, Chinese representatives can attend courses at the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany.  Furthermore, China has regularly participated in NATO’s annual conferences on WMD Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. 


21.     In contrast to the political exchanges that have been going on for several years, there has been no military-to-military contact between China and NATO.  However, in June 2010 a delegation of senior military officials of the PLA visited NATO Headquarters.  This first ever visit by a Chinese military delegation to NATO may, over time, offer an opportunity to build military‑to‑military relations which would enhance confidence building between China and the Alliance.  An example of this is evident in the increasing contact between the Chinese navy and NATO forces conducting counterpiracy missions in the Gulf of Aden[7] and the Horn of Africa.  Such practical co-operation has included shared access to the MERCURY maritime information tool and deconfliction and co-ordination of counterpiracy efforts through the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) meetings between counterpiracy mission contributors. China has also signalled its intention to take on areas of responsibility in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) along the line of the co-ordination guidelines drafted by EU/CMF/NATO.  Both NATO and the EU are looking forward to developing co-operation with China and remain open to any opportunity to do so.


22.     In the view of the Rapporteur, it would be desirable to strengthen the nascent dialogue between NATO and China. China can play a crucially important constructive role in regional and global security.  The new Strategic Concept of theAlliance, adopted at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, identifies “co-operative security” as one of NATO’s three essential core tasks.  What is more, the new partnership policy, endorsed by NATO Foreign Ministers in April 2011, allows for further developing NATO-China relations as it makes dialogue and co-operation more inclusive, flexible, meaningful and strategically oriented. Chinaand NATO have common interests which include, among others, the following: 



23.    China and NATO have common interests, particularly the security and stability of Afghanistan which has a common border with China.  NATO Allies value the political support which China has given to theAlliance’s engagement in Afghanistan, through its constructive role in the UNSC and in other ways.  Moreover, Chinese political and economic involvement in Afghanistan appears to be growing.  In 2009 China allocated US$75 million in economic aid toAfghanistan, bringing its total to almost US$1 billion. In March 2010, during President Karzai’s visit to China, Chinese officials called for increased international support forAfghanistan and pledged China’s commitment to continuing investment in the country.  Various bilateral agreements on expanding economic co-operation, ensuring favourable tariffs on Afghan exports and creating economic training scholarships across a range of fields were signed at this time.


24.    China is particularly interested in investing in the mining and energy sectors in Afghanistan.  A US$3.4 billion deal was signed in November 2007 for the China Metallurgical Group to develop the Anyak copper mine and related infrastructure, south of Kabul.  Although frequently stalled by problems related to the security situation, the deal represents the largest investment in the history of Afghanistan.  China is also in the running to develop the iron ore mines at Hajijak, in Bamiyan province.  Such investment is in keeping with wider Chinese economic strategy, as displayed in Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East.  Indeed, some commentators see China’s vision of Afghanistan as simply “a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere” into China.


25.    China has also made some limited contributions to training Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) through a mine-clearing course it runs for Afghan officers inNanjing.  In March 2010, military ties were strengthened when Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, following meetings with his Afghan counterpart, Adbul Rahim Wardak, pledged that the “Chinese military will continue assistance to the Afghan National Army (ANA) to improve their capacity of safeguarding national sovereignty, territorial integrity and domestic stability.”  There is also evidence that China is developing border access routes to Afghanistanin the Wakhjir Pass to facilitate possible increased Chinese involvement.  However, while deployment of Chinese police forces to Afghanistan remains possible, future PLA involvement is less so.


26.     The PRC also enjoys a close and mutually beneficial relationship with Afghanistan’s neighbour Pakistan. China has long provided Pakistanwith major military, technological, and economic assistance, including the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology and equipment.  Collaboration now includes personnel training, joint military exercises, intelligence sharing and counterterrorism efforts.  Pakistan has also benefited from Chinese assistance in developing defence capabilities such as short and medium range ballistic missiles, jet aircraft and advanced early warning radar.  


27.     However, Pakistanis a fragile state and questions can be asked about China’s motives in supplying weapons and technology when what the country arguably needs is development aid.  Some observers, especially those in India, suggest that the Sino-Pakistani relationship is underpinned by similar geo-political goals, specifically the containment of India.  They see this Chinese support for Pakistan as a “key aspect of Beijing’s perceived policy of ‘encirclement’, or constraint, of Indiaas a means of preventing or delaying New Delhi’s ability to challenge Beijing’s region-wide influence.”  Lingering mutual distrust between India and China over border dispute clashes in 1962 contributes to such views, as does the fact that China is helping Pakistan develop nuclear power plants and a deep-sea port at the naval base at Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. The port would allow Chinato secure oil and gas supplies from the Persian Gulf and project power into the Indian Ocean.  However, China recently rejected a Pakistani offer to run the port[8].

28.     The possible geo-political implications of Osama bin Laden’s death on China’s relationship with Pakistan, and on its involvement in Afghanistan, remain to be seen.  However some questions arise that are worth consideration.  Given current difficulties in US-Pakistan relations (to what extent, if any, will China adjust its own relationship with Pakistan?), some analysts have argued that China could increase military and economic ties with Pakistan as the United States recede.  They point to the recent visit by Prime Minister Gilani to Beijing in the wake of bin Laden’s killing, during which China agreed to immediately provide Pakistan with 50 JF-17 fighter aircraft[9].  However, China gave US$217 million in aid to Pakistan between 2004 and 2009[10], a figure which pales in comparison to the US$20 billion the United States has given since 2001[11] and indicates that, despite recent US cuts in aid, China has a long way to go to if it wants to replace the United States as Pakistan’s main benefactor.  In addition, other reports highlight that China is reluctant to get deeply involved in Pakistan, especially as its internal stability appears uncertain and the radicalisation of its society continues.[12]  Questions also arise on the extent of China’s leverage upon Pakistan.  Others remain as to China’s continued involvement in Afghanistan given NATO intent upon transition to Afghan control of security in 2014.  Will China retain its economic interests in the country if the West is not providing security?  Is it willing to play a more active role, politically, economically, and also in terms of security, in Afghanistan?  These answers remain unknown as yet, but such questions highlight the complex strategic questions that Chinese policy makers will have to tackle in the context of the changing security landscape in Afghanistan and its neighbourhood.



29.     NATO and Chinaare both interested in the stability of Central Asia.  As NATO,Chinais concerned about the security challenges in the region, including the risk of political instability, the challenge posed by terrorist groups, and illicit trafficking of drugs.  Moreover, Chinese interest in the region also stems from its desire to quell any prospects of ethnic unrest in its Western Xinjiangprovince.  As Central Asia is increasingly important to China as an energy provider and as an energy transport corridor,China is strengthening its ties with the Central Asian states to its west which have traditionally close relations with Russia. China’s involvement with the Central Asian states is primarily through the development of economic and trade ties. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have benefited from Chinese investment in trade infrastructure, energy pipelines, railroads and highways. China’s drive for energy security has led it to acquire two new pipelines, a first between China and foreign countries, to supply it with large volumes of gas from Turkmenistan and oil from Kazakhstan.  Trade between China and the five Central Asian countries topped US$ 25.9 billion in 2009, up from US$ 527 million in 1992, and China has recently opened Confucius Institutes to teach Mandarin in capitals acrossCentral Asia.  Though they remain limited,China is also developing military ties in the area, having conducted war games in Kazakhstan in September 2010 as part of annual exercises that traditionally include several Central Asian members of the SCO.  Of particular interest to NATO is the potential implication of Chinese influence in Kyrgyzstan for the transit of troops and supplies into Afghanistan and the continuing unrest in the country. 



30.     As the world’s second largest trading nation,Chinais, as NATO, very interested in the freedom and security of the sea lanes and in combating maritime piracy. China’s contribution to the counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast ofSomalia is also highly welcome.  As NATO, the PLAN has been contributing to the international counterpiracy effort since 2008, escorting convoys through theGulf of Aden.  NATO’s presence off the Horn of Africa has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Programme Shipping under Operation Allied Provider and protecting merchant traffic in theGulf of Adenunder Operation Allied Protector.  NATO’s current mission, Operation Ocean Shield, also involves working with international bodies to help develop the capacity of countries in the region to tackle piracy on their own. OperationOceanShield has been extended to December 2012. 


31.    China’s approach to the Middle East is primarily based on economic and energy realities.  As a consequence, the Sino-Gulf relationship has been strengthening dramatically.  The PRC, the second largest energy importer, is importing most of its oil from the Middle East.  Chinese demand for oil is growing and predicted to continue, and China is now the largest importer of Saudi oil. 




32.    China and NATO member states share other common concerns and challenges, such as the proliferation of WMDs and their means of delivery.  While the PRC has previously been active in WMD-related technology transfer to countries like Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, Bejing has recently been showing more concern about limiting the spread of WMDs.  As far as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is concerned, Beijing’s relations with Pyongyang have traditionally been described as being as close as “lips and teeth”.  The PRC is the DPRK’s closest diplomatic ally, largest provider of food, fuel and industrial machinery, and arguably the country most able to wield influence in Pyongyang.  However, since the 1990s the existence of the DPRK’s nuclear programme has strained Beijing-Pyongyang relations. China declared itself “resolutely opposed” to both North Korean nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Chinese officials say they fear that a nuclear-armed North Korea could inspireSouth Korea, Japan and evenTaiwan to acquire nuclear weapons, making China’s Asian neighbourhood a dramatically more dangerous place. China also hosts the Six-Party Talks (involving the United States, China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia) over North Korea’s nuclear programme. 


33.    China has actively used diplomacy to try to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.  In 2003, it helped bring the DPRK to the Six-Party negotiating table and has supported UN Resolutions condemning North Korea’s nuclear tests. Recently, US-Sino approaches toNorth Korea have diverged in the face of an increasingly belligerent DPRK.  While most of the international community have favoured a sanctions approach, China has shielded North Korea from the fall out over the November 2010 revelation it had built a sophisticated uranium enrichment facility, and its shelling ofSouth Korea’s Yellow Sea island of Yeonpyeong the same month.  Neither did it comment on the North Korean sinking of a South Korean Navy ship in March 2010.  However, although ultimately unsuccessful,Chinahas also used its political leverage with the DPRK to get Pyongyang to begin unconditional negotiations with Seoul in January 2011.


34.     In the Middle East, Chinese officials have been reluctant to impose sanctions on Iran although China seeks to curb Iranian nuclear weapons capability, preferring a diplomatic approach.  However, in response to international pressure, Beijing has curtailed certain arms sales to Iranand supported UNSC efforts to encourage Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.  Nonetheless, many experts suspect China supplies Pakistan with nuclear technology and assistance, including the blueprint for Pakistan's nuclear bomb.  This is of special significance as Pakistanis not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is now estimated to have the 5th largest supply of nuclear warheads in the world. Moreover,China has recently built two nuclear power reactors in the Punjab and is contracted to build at least two more.





35.    China is becoming an increasingly influential international actor, whose activities and interests already impact a number of areas relevant to the security interests of NATO and its member states. China and NATO member states share a broad range of common concerns and challenges, including the proliferation of WMDs and their means of delivery, failed and failing states, terrorism, and organised crime.  Both sides have a shared interest in containing, and ideally in preventing, regional conflicts as these can quickly spin out of control and escalate into violence on a much wider scale.


36.    China can play a crucially important constructive role for regional and global security.  There is potential for closer co-operation between China and NATO.  This may not entail entering into a formal partnership for the time being.  However, given the host of common security concerns the Alliance and China should engage in more regular contacts, which should primarily be geared towards providing increased institutional transparency and information. Chinaand NATO could explore opportunities for gradual, limited policy co-ordination, possibly together with other NATO partners. It would appear that the most obvious area for NATO-China co-ordination concerns maritime piracy.  NATO and China, as well as NATO partner countries, could improve information sharing in anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and possibly also hold joint anti-piracy exercises. NATO might also open exercises organised by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) to Chinese participation, as China is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters.  More generally,China and NATO could consider initiating military‑to‑military exchanges on a regular basis.  Given the increasing role and activity of the Chinese armed forces, this would be an important step towards building transparency and confidence between the Alliance and China.  Regular NATO-China military-to-military exchanges could also have a positive impact on regional security, as the Alliance has already established formal and informal exchanges with partners in the region, most notably Japan and the Republic of Korea. In the view of the Rapporteur, it would be highly desirable to nourish the fledgling dialogue between NATO and China.  The visit of the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships to China in September 2011 is an important contribution by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to a better understanding of China’s increasing international activities and the implications for regional as well as for global security and stability.  Responding to the increasing interdependence of security in different parts of the world, the Assembly- and the Political Committee in particular- will continue to monitor the relations with NATO partners across the globe and evaluate opportunities for expanded co‑operation with them.      





[1]        B. Demick, “China’s naval manoeuvres seen as warning toVietnam”,The Los Angeles Times,18 June 2011

[2]         AFP “Philippines warns of arms race inSouth China Sea”,  24 May 2011

[3]        “ASEAN meeting: South China Sea conduct guidelines welcomed”, CNTV, 22 July 2011

[4]         “China- Japan-ROK meeting to enhance post quake co-op, improve China-Japan relations”,China People’s Daily Online, 22 May 2011,

[5]       S. Nagy, “Opportunity in crisis: Sino-Japanese relations after the earthquake”,The Asia Foundation,15 April 2011

[6]        J. Rathus, “Sino-Japanese relations: flirtation or long-term engagement”,The Asia Foundation,21 May 2011

[7]        Allied Maritime Command Headquarters News Release “NATO Flagship Welcomes Chinese Navy Task Force Commander”, 28 March 2011

[8]         R. Lee, “China drops the Gwadar hot potato”,The Asia Times, 28 May 2011

[9]         J. Perlez, “China givesPakistan 50 fighter jets”,The New York Times,19 May 2011

[10]       D. Wagner, “Message to Pakistan: China will not replace US Aid”, 18 May 2011,

[11]       S. Cornwall, “Factbox: US. has allocated $20 billion toPakistan”,Reuters, 21 April 2011

[12]       J. Lee, “Pakistan courtsChina as relations with US. grow strained”,TheWashington Post,22 June 2011

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