China's rapid military expansion and modernization presents a challenge to the global security environment, according to a top NATO official, and significant work will need to be done to ensure the continuation of the democratic way of life that the alliance aims to defend.
"China is not an adversary to NATO," said NATO Deputy Security General Mircea Geoana. "But its military modernization, its heavy investment in nuclear missiles and hypersonic missiles, and its coercive diplomacy, has security implications for all NATO allies."
"We have to stand up and stay strong to uphold our values and our way of life."
Geoana made the comments during a wide-ranging discussion at the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank, on May 11 during which he spoke on topics related to China, Afghanistan, and Russia.
Notably, he said that "like-minded democracies around the world," and particularly "those in the Asia-Pacific region," would need to work together to address the security implications posed by communist China and its strategic partner Russia.
To that end, Geoana said that Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea, "four highly-valued partners of NATO," would play an invaluable role in helping the alliance to maintain peace and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific.
The comments precede the unveiling of a new Strategic Concept, expected to be announced this June at the NATO summit in Madrid. The Strategic Concept is second in importance only to the alliance's founding charter, and will chart out the pathway that NATO will take strategically over the next decade.
Vitally, the new strategic concept will contend with the "rise of China" for the first time ever, presenting a profound shift away from the previous strategy released in 2010, which did not make note of China and even listed Russia as a strategic partner of the alliance.
"The old strategic concept of NATO doesn't mention China at all," Geoana said.
"It sounds like [it's] from a different world."
"The world has drastically changed and the next strategic concept must reflect this new, more dangerous security reality."
With the reality of a revisionist Russia, creeping authoritarianism, and compromised global supply chains in mind, Geoana cautioned that the coming years would be fraught with perils for international security and the defense of democracies. Moreover, he said, the world ought to expect deepening partnerships between authoritarian regimes, such as that of Moscow and Beijing.
"We have the feeling that the jury is still out, but do not believe that this strategic partnership between Russia and China will weaken," Geoana said.
"They have a common interest to weaken America's leadership in the world and to have a world order that suits their autocratic vision of society."