The discussion on China marked a shift toward a harder line on the challenges and threats it represents, especially among foreign ministers from previously more ambivalent countries, like Italy, Belgium, Spain and Portugal, some of whom called for less talk and more action to build a China strategy.
Areas of concern included investment screening to protect key industries, infrastructure, cyber, technology and intellectual property, especially as countries are feeling the reach of China domestically and fear the West may be falling behind in important areas like artificial intelligence.
The focus has been on resilience, with some members concentrating on maritime security, some on energy security, some on export controls and others on cybersecurity and disinformation.
These are discussions clearly encouraged by the Biden administration, but they fall on more fertile ground now. At the same time, nations emphasized that there is no intention of seeing China as an adversary, like Russia, or of NATO getting involved militarily in the Indo-Pacific.
There was also discussion of the challenges Xi Jinping, the leader of China, is currently facing, with widespread demonstrations over “zero-COVID” rules and restrictions, not to speak of the threat to economic growth from the lockdowns.
In his concluding news conference, Mr. Stoltenberg said that while NATO is an alliance of Europe and North America, “the challenges we face are global.” China is not an adversary, he said, and “we will continue to engage with China when it is in our interests, not least to convey our united position on Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine.”
China is Russia’s most powerful strategic partner and has aligned with it on the war. In his meeting with Mr. Biden this month in Bali, Indonesia, Mr. Xi did not show any inclination of putting distance between him and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, according to a person familiar with the discussions.