Why China has turned NATO into the boogieman

Beijing’s close partnership with Moscow has forced China to blame the US for Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine

When is a lie not a lie? When you repeat it incessantly in China’s state-run media.

Amid Beijing’s diplomatic disaster in cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, facts have been blurred into dark fiction.

Putin’s war and Moscow’s illegal invasion of Ukraine have not been blamed on the Kremlin and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “best friend.”

Instead, the real villain is NATO, the group of nations that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and in particular, the United States.

“Monday marked the 73rd anniversary of the founding of NATO,” Wang Shuo, of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, wrote in a commentary for state-owned Global Times on April 5.

“This US-led bloc’s repeated eastward expansion squeezed Russia’s strategic space, which triggered Russia to launch a military operation toward Ukraine. Europe has been then dragged into [this] plight. In seven decades, what has NATO brought to Europe,” Wang asked, echoing the line established by the ruling Communist Party of China.

Before the conflict, the answer was peace and prosperity.

A stronger EU and a stronger NATO are mutually reinforcing.

European Union

In the 20th century, the continent had been ravaged by two world wars and an occasional hot Cold War with the Soviet Union, orchestrated from Moscow.

An epic psychological battle erupted between democracy and autocracy.

“EU [or the European Union and] NATO cooperation constitutes an integral pillar of the EU’s work aimed at strengthening European security and defense, as part of the implementation of the EU Global Strategy,” the European Union, a political and economic bloc of 27 nations, said in a mission statement. 

“It also contributes to Trans-Atlantic burden-sharing. A stronger EU and a stronger NATO are mutually reinforcing,” it added.

Behind Beijing’s myths:

  • China’s one-party state insists “Europe has been dragged into” this “plight” and NATO is the instigator.
  • Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • NATO did not corral new members.
  • In fact, there was a stampede to be part of the military alliance after the fallout from the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • Enduring nearly 50 years of oppression, Eastern European countries in the old Soviet sphere of influence rushed to join NATO to preserve their newfound democratic freedoms.
  • The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became members in 1999.
  • Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia were admitted into the security club five years later.
  • Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia quickly followed.
  • In short, this was a mutually-defined defense pact, where an attack on one NATO nation was an attack on all of its 30 members.

Putin’s brazen and brutal military invasion of Ukraine has put President Xi and China in a very difficult position.

David Shambaugh, of thet George Washington University

Delve deeper: The military alliance was founded at the start of the Cold War in 1949. There were just 12 members as Europe was carved up between East and West amid Cold War tensions.

Founding nations: The first countries to sign up in alphabetical order were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Big picture: But China’s obsession with distorting the facts has been a calculated move to prise the EU and other European states away from NATO. Beijing’s plan has always been to create a diplomatic breach by dismantling US-European cooperation. 

Geopolitical gaffe: After tacitly backing Russia with a “no limits” cooperation agreement on the eve of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, President Xi and his Party inner circle are now ensnared in a trap of their own making.

Difficult position: “Putin’s brazen and brutal military invasion of Ukraine has put President Xi and China in a very difficult position with its Russian partners,” David Shambaugh, of George Washington University, said.

Public silence: “Since the aggression began, Beijing has still not condemned it publicly. To not do so specifically is seen as clear signs of Beijing’s complicity, support, and enabling of the aggression,” he wrote in a commentary for China-US Focus, an academic website, on March 30.

Alternative view: “China gains nothing from the conflict, while the US is benefiting tremendously from it. [Washington] has been able to weaken Russia, tighten its grip on Europe and drive a wedge between the European Union and China,” state-run China Daily said in an editorial on April 5, referring to the sanctions imposed on Moscow.

China Factor comment: Beijing is in a geopolitical hole that gets deeper with each passing day. Pushing its “blame” game diplomacy is fooling no one, apart from the Party diehards.