Toward A Unified NATO Response to the People’s Republic of China

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15 December, 2022


Featuring

Dr. Bradley Jensen Murg
Provost & Associate Professor
Paragon International University
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Dr. David Camroux
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
SciencesPo CERI
Paris, France

Dr. Kelly Grieco
Senior Fellow
Stimson Center
Washington, DC, USA


Key Findings

On Thursday, Dec. 15, Pacific Forum hosted a roundtable discussion on how NATO can coordinate efforts to address the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s rise in the Indo-Pacific and the overall global community. The session was moderated by Rob York (Pacific Forum) and featured Bradley Jensen Murg (Provost & Associate Professor at Paragon International University in Phnon Penh, Cambodia), David Camroux (Honorary Senior Research Fellow at SciencesPo CERI in Paris, France), and Kelly Grieco (Senior Fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.). The following are the key findings from the session.

Favorability and anxiety toward China

China’s level of favorability in countries around the world has declined in recent years, while perceptions of the US are at the same level or perhaps lower than China’s. In the US itself, China’s favorability is lower not because of the Donald Trump administration, though Trump did speed up the process of the United States exhibiting negative views toward China. Both Democrats and Republicans have unfavorable views toward China, with Republicans focusing on the loss of jobs and trade deficits. Democrats and Republicans are both concerned about human rights abuses in China, with coverage expanding on China and Hong Kong after 2014.

Anxiety toward China is not only due to more coverage focused on China, but due to China’s expanding role in institutions. China’s creation of regional institutions has created concerns over its intervention and concerns over potential support of authoritarian regimes. Additionally, China has focused on constraining US power projections by climbing to the global ladder of production, creating more value-added goods and competing rather than collaborating with the United States. This leads to questions over the Made in China 2025 plan, which raises questions over China’s technology, illegal means to acquire tech and the intention of Chinese firms.

However, despite bipartisan support towards more accountability towards addressing China, there are prospects for collaboration between the two countries. This includes the denuclearization of North Korea and collaboration in the G20, among other possibilities. Seven in 10 Americans also support the negotiations of arms agreements and collaboration on addressing climate change with China.

EU and US working together

The US and EU have differences in how they have approached China. While the US banned Huawei during the Trump administration, the EU set up a toolkit to allow states to decide on Huawei. As far as the US, UK, and EU, all three could partner on addressing climate change while competing economically.

The best plan for Europe and the US to address China would be through collaboration between the EU and US, rather than via NATO. The EU and US should cooperate through trade and investment agreements to fill voids that may be filled by China. Examples include trans-Atlantic cooperation, initiatives on tech and the expansion of information sharing. For this to happen, the “comfort level” that the US has towards the EU needs to change. Overall, Europe is focused on Russia and that there are parallels between China and Russia, which could draw Europe’s attention towards China. One of the unexpected outcomes of the war in Ukraine has meant that the underlying anti-Communist sentiment in Central and Eastern Europe has resurfaced and has significantly cooled relations with a Communist China seen cozying up to the Putin regime.

For more amicable relations to occur, Europe can serve as an alternative to the Sino-American rivalry, which can promote economic interests and partnerships. Europe wants multipolarity, or dynamic polarity, and should explore the possibility of converging interests and supply chains with countries considering closer relations with China.

Once a golden age

Camroux also examined the “golden age” of relations between Europe and China—the period between 1998 and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Initially, there was fear that China would devaluate its currency, which would have been destructive. However, China did not do this and instead provided aid to countries such as Thailand. After 2010, relations between the UK and China were positive, President Xi meeting with David Cameron and Queen Elizabeth. However, Europeans today see its relationship with China as exploitative.

There are prospects towards returning to the golden age. In the long-term, there may be areas of cooperation to address climate change. However, as seen during the G20 summit in 2022, there no short-term breakthroughs have occurred yet. Additionally, while arms reduction may be unattainable at the moment, AI and hypersonics may be areas of cooperation. Focusing on narrow areas can help establish trust and encourage cooperation on the ground between China, the US, and Europe.

This document was prepared by Cameron Whiteside. For more information, please contact Rob York (rob@pacforum.org), Director for Regional Affairs at Pacific Forum. These preliminary findings provide a general summary of the discussion. This is not a consensus document. The views expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants.