By Serife Cetin
BRUSSELS (AA) - The rise of China was on the NATO agenda for the first time in the history of the alliance during its summit held earlier this week in London, which was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the alliance.
At a time when the alliance’s presence was questioned by the leaders of some member states, and the allegations of "brain death" were discussed, NATO's China step sends a message that the alliance is "still alive" and does not hesitate to take bold steps in the political sphere.
The China move as well has brought controversy over whether China will become "new Russia" for the alliance.
- 'Rise of China not one-dimensional issue'
"This is the first time NATO leaders had a discussion and addressed together -- based on our analysis -- our assessments, a discussion about both the opportunities connected to the rise of China, but also the challenges," said NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg on the leaders’ summit agenda.
"We all acknowledge that this is not a one-dimensional issue," said Stoltenberg.
The NATO chief also said China is the world's second-largest defense spender following the U.S., and has recently demonstrated new modern technologies, including nuclear weapons, but it is not the "new adversary" of the alliance.
"The economic rise of China provides great economic opportunities. It has lifted millions of people out of poverty, but at the same time, we see that China invests heavily in new modern capabilities," said Stoltenberg.
"A few weeks ago, they displayed a new intercontinental ballistic missile, able to reach Europe and North America. They displayed hypersonic missiles, gliders," he added.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ian Lesser, vice president of The German Marshall Fund, said that it is "not surprising" for NATO to discuss China in the latest summit.
NATO provides an ideal platform for European and North American allies to better understand China and conduct joint discussions on this issue, Lesser said.
"The point is to make the alliance a more active place for transatlantic discussion and coordination around China. They don't want to create a new adversary," he added.
A new political initiative, at a time when NATO's effectiveness is questioned by some circles, is useful to show that the alliance can still make decisions and act jointly in unity and solidarity.
Lesser also said on the matter that China's move demonstrated that NATO can conduct political discussions on "big pictures and strategies."
* Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak