2021 - PRELIMINARY DRAFT REPORT - CHINA'S DEFENCE POSTURE: IMPLICATIONS FOR NATO

Lara MARTINHO (Portugal)

26 April 2021

Beijing is investing in modern armed forces capable of defending China’s increasingly global interests. The modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is accelerating under the watch of Xi Jinping. Three military goals structure Xi’s vision for the PLA – mechanisation, informationisation, and intelligentisation – if achieved, Xi believes the PLA will be a ‘world-class’ fighting force by 2049; in time to celebrate the centenary of the PRC.

China’s military does not pose an immediate threat to Allies, but it is increasingly apparent it is an over-the-horizon challenge – China’s expanding global economic, political, and military interests are increasingly butting up against those of the Alliance in the Euro-Atlantic. 

As Allies hone their understanding and approach to China in the coming months and years, it is certain NATO will need a whole-of-alliance effort. China’s declared military ambitions will increasingly rub up against Allied interests in three key domains; sea, space, and cyber – in the preservation norms for the freedom of navigation on the high seas; the maintenance of access to secure satellite communication networks in space; and, in cyber space, which has become a declared arena of strategic competition and disruption by China. In addition to mitigating the impact of the military challenges China will pose, Allies must also find the ways and means to cooperate with China on a number of global security issues.

This preliminary draft report concludes with focused recommendations for NATO parliamentarians, as well as governments to consider; among them: a strong political statement about what the Alliance stands for, rather than against, in its upcoming NATO 2030 initiative and Strategic Concept review in order to position the Alliance in a world with a globally strong China; stronger inter-Allied and partner cooperation to garner a clearer picture of the size and scope of the China challenge in all domains; the expansion of NATO-China political and military contact; and the identification of Allied strategic vulnerabilities. 

This preliminary draft report will be discussed during the upcoming Spring Session, May 16.
 


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