In the post-COVID world, there can be no return to “business as usual” with China

15 July 2020

Video of the meeting can be found at the bottom of the page

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis highlights the need for Western democracies to better align their positions on China, legislators from Europe and North America heard at their online meeting on Wednesday. The crisis will likely exacerbate the trend towards a more competitive global geopolitical landscape, marked by the rise of China. NATO must take urgent steps to accelerate its adaptation to this new environment and strengthen the unique elements that make it an unsurpassed political-military alliance based on liberal values. 

These were the main takeaways from the meeting of the Political Committee (PC) of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) that was held on 15 July. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, members of the Committee met via an online platform. The meeting was presided over by Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (UK), Chair of the PC.

During the pandemic, Beijing continued to expand its global clout, including continued regional brinkmanship, intensification of its ‘wolf-warrior’ diplomacy, and waging cyber hacking and propaganda campaigns in Allied and partner countries, said Congressman Gerald Connolly (US), introducing the draft PC General Report The Rise of China: Implications for Global and Euro-Atlantic Security.

He warned that the meteoric rise of China is particularly disturbing due to the fact that China is a dictatorship, where the regime denies democratic rights for its citizens, oppresses ethnic minorities, crushes democracy in Hong Kong and aims to disrupt the global liberal world order.

“NATO must do more than just take note,” Congressman Connolly’s report said. “NATO must develop the capabilities to monitor, engage, and when necessary counter the threats posed by China.” 

Allied Parliamentarians also discussed NATO’s response to the pandemic. PC Chair Lord Campbell introduced a special draft report COVID-19 and Transatlantic Security where he argued that the Alliance acted in the spirit of solidarity and mobilised its assets to help hardest-hit members and partners, while maintaining adequate levels of preparedness to execute NATO’s core tasks of defence and deterrence. 

Lord Campbell urged NATO parliamentarians to do their part as national legislators to ensure adequate levels of defence spending, in line with the 2014 Wales Summit commitment. “The post-COVID global security environment is likely to be more adversarial” he warned.

He also urged NATO members to be prudent and coordinate their positions vis-à-vis third-party investments in strategic infrastructure. In this respect, NATO’s cooperation with the EU will be vital.

Lord Campbell concluded by noting that, despite their aggressive propaganda, authoritarian regimes handled the outbreak rather poorly. “Democratic systems have a possibility of coming out of this crisis stronger, but it requires continued responsible and science-based efforts by governments, solidarity, as well as better communication” he stressed.

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