Lhe Joe Biden festival in mid-June in Europe marked a most exotic geopolitical innovation: China, the power of the Pacific, was officially listed among the “challenges” weighing on the security of the Atlantic zone. This is new in the history of the military-political Alliance formed between the United States and the Europeans in 1949. This major upheaval brings up a question: what is the margin of “strategic autonomy” left to Europeans in the face of to China?
The 46e US president has successfully completed his European tour. He wanted to line the allies across the Atlantic behind the United States in a posture of opposition to China’s behavior on the international stage. In his calm, direct way, Biden imposed the theme of the “Chinese challenge” on his G7 allies (the old rich countries), on those of NATO and in the institutional relations between Brussels and Washington.
In principle, NATO’s mission is to ensure the collective security of allies in the transatlantic region – primarily in Europe, where the Soviet threat was most direct. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has broadened the scope of its missions – particularly in the face of Islamist terrorism. In the interminable press release (79 paragraphs) of the June 14 summit, China appears for the first time among the organization’s concerns. Paragraph 55: “China’s declared ambitions (…) present systemic challenges ” for the thirty NATO members.
China is increasing the power of its nuclear arsenal, details the press release. It is modernizing its armaments in “Opacity”. She practices digital disinformation. It is cooperating with Russia in exercises in the Euro-Atlantic area. For Western allies, NATO is not going to China; it is she who comes to “challenge” them.
In the Western Pacific, in the South China Sea in particular, China is imposing itself by force. It violates the law of the sea, seizes islets disputed with its neighbors and militarizes them. Beijing reigns through muscular intimidation, as researchers from the French Institute of International Relations recount in the latest issue of the journal Foreign politic (summer 2021).
A maritime power, attached to freedom of movement in the Indo-Pacific region, France comes up against a China wishing to extend its sovereignty by arms. “Our boats are systematically followed, sometimes forced to maneuver in front of Chinese ships to avoid a collision, in defiance of the rules of freedom of navigation”, confided in The world of June 11 Admiral Pierre Vandier. The Chief of Staff of the French Navy adds: “We are facing a logic of suffocation” in the service of Beijing expansionism in the Pacific.
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