Why is China rattled by expansion of NATO and QUAD?

Ranjit Kumar
India News Network

The continuing eastward expansion of NATO and the rise of QUAD in the Indo- pacific region are making China jittery. The expansionist Middle Kingdom under Xi Jin Ping is getting nervous and rattled because it finds a major challenge emerging to its dream of setting up a China centric Asia pacific regime.
China is finding that NATO’s expansion and QUAD are touching its shores in the Pacific and hence, can pause its ambition of becoming not only a regional warlord but world superpower.
Along with new East European countries waiting to join the NATO and their growing cooperation with South Korea, the rising traction of QUAD in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe are probably giving sleepless nights to Chinese strategic planners, hence reactions like Mini- NATO and Asian NATO regarding the newly constituted four power Quadrilateral alliance.
From Pacific powers like South Korea to Vietnam and European powers like France, Germany and United Kingdom, QUAD is attracting support, which has the potentials of not only posing security challenges but also raising fears of making dent on Chinese economic might as linchpin of world economy, as the QUAD nations have begun searching new ways to find an alternative to Chinese monopoly supply chain.
Prior to the evolution of QUAD, eastward expansion of NATO has been bothering not only Russia but China also. Off late China has been feeding on Russian fears of NATO eastward expansion to draw Russia in its fold to counter the US military superiority.
However, China’s concerns on QUAD, which has challenged China’s political and economic assertiveness in the region, has added to the restiveness in China’s security establishment as it finds escalating tensions and increased anti-China rhetoric over its illegal claims in the South China Sea.
The four-nation QUAD has posed a direct threat to China’s ambitions of establishing its suzerainty over South China Sea and dominating the South East Asian region. China’s calculations in the Indo-Pacific have gone completely haywire because of QUAD and continuing expansion of NATO and its deepening cooperation with pacific powers like South Korea.
Like East European countries bordering Russia, eager to join NATO, China finds deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea as a major threat to its security.
Though the collective military and economic strength of QUAD is more than a match to China, it has yet to organise itself accordingly to counter China militarily and economically.
QUAD is still in evolutionary stage and the first summit of four partner nations hosted by US last March, has energised the group of four leading democratic powers of the world, but the grouping requires strong national political will among all its partners to unitedly raise voices against China’s ambitious expansionist agenda on long term commitment.
Though QUAD group has clarified and denied Chinese assertions of it emerging as a NATO like military alliance, the four nation joint maritime muscle flexing in Bay of Bengal last November has given rise to fears in Chinese strategic circles that the MALABAR naval exercises may be a forerunner to an undeclared bigger military partnership directed against China.
Though QUAD members the US, Australia , Japan and India are also participants in Malabar and Australia was a recent addition to this four nation naval grouping, it has not yet been declared as a security arm of QUAD. The four partner nations have to go a long way for QUAD to evolve into a mini-NATO like military grouping. There is no official move in that direction.
On the other hand, the eastward expansion of NATO does not directly impact India but consequent increased tensions with Russia has its fallout for India also. As Russia feels challenged by the US-led military alliance, it is trying to balance its power by aligning with old cold war rival China. China has to settle its own score with the US and the US-led alliances in the Indo-Pacific area, hence China would be too happy to collaborate with Russia in some sort of alliance against the US and its allies.
Russia would like to use its strategic partnership with China to fend off the threat posed by NATO military alliance on its borders. Russia and China have both denounced the emerging four power construct of Quadrilateral alliance in the Indo-Pacific region.
Though Russia has been India’s traditional ally and strategic partner, its foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has recently scoffed at the emerging Quadrilateral.
Hence, while deepening its partnership with the QUAD, India would have to be wary about the Russia- China alliance. This will pose strategic challenges to India’s emergence in the Indo-Pacific region.
But since China is the biggest emerging threat to law abiding nations, the US dominated democratic grouping has to prioritise its strategic planning to make QUAD more relevant and effective so as to deter China from carrying out its expansionist agenda.
(The author is a senior journalist with expertise in diplomatic and strategic affairs; views expressed are his personal)

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