Head of NATO says member states need to ‘strengthen’ policy on China

When the leaders of NATO member states meet next week in Brussels, they’ll need to strengthen their collective policy on an increasingly aggressive China, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“China does not share our values,” Stoltenberg told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview airing today on Rosemary Barton Live. 

“We see that in the way they crack down on democratic protests in Hong Kong, how they oppress minorities like the Uyghurs and also how they use modern technology, social media [and] facial recognition, to monitor, to do surveillance of their own population in a way we have never seen before.

“All of this makes it important for NATO to develop a policy, to strengthen our policy, when it comes to China.”

Stoltenberg said China’s arrest and ongoing detention of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig is “absolutely unacceptable” and an example of how China reacts when a “country does something they don’t like.”

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in China on Dec. 10, 2018 — nine days after Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver.

Meng was detained on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei’s control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The arrests of Kovrig and Spavor are widely seen as acts of retaliation by Beijing for Meng’s arrest.

Working with and against China

“I saw that myself, as prime minister of Norway, when the Norwegian [Nobel] Peace Prize committee awarded a peace prize to a Chinese dissident and then China actually tried to isolate and impose economic sanctions on Norway,” Stoltenberg said. “So this is behaviour that just makes it even more important that we stand together.”

Stoltenberg said that despite the concerns a rising China raises, the world will still have to engage with the superpower on issues such as arms control, climate change and the global economy.

The NATO secretary general said that, aside from discussing the rising threat from China, Monday’s meeting will allow the leaders of NATO nations to “strengthen our transatlantic bond” without the distracting presence of former U.S. president Donald Trump.

Trump famously threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO over frustration with member states that do not adequately fund their militaries. 

“There is no secret that we had some challenging discussions among NATO allies during the Trump administration,” Stoltenberg said.

“At the same time, I think that what we have seen over those years is the strength of NATO, is the importance of multilateral institutions like NATO, because our institutionalized cooperation goes beyond individual political leaders and it is able to weather different political winds.”

Stoltenberg said that even when Trump was denigrating the alliance and threatening to pull out, there was broad bipartisan support in the U.S. for remaining in the alliance. Now that Trump’s gone, he said he fully expects the U.S. to recommit to NATO.

“What I welcome is that we now have a U.S. president, President Biden, who is strongly committed to NATO, to European security, and who is ready to invest more in NATO,” he said.

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