The Chinese mission to the European Union on Tuesday denounced a Nato statement that describes Beijing as a "security challenge," saying China is actually a force for peace but will defend itself if threatened.
The Chinese news release said the Nato statement was a "slander on China's peaceful development, a misjudgment of the international situation and (Nato's) own role, and a continuation of the Cold War mentality and bloc politics," adding that China spent "1.3 percent of its GDP" on military, "even less than Nato's minimum 2 percent."
"In contrast," the Chinese rebuke continued, "the total military expenditure of 30 Nato member states is expected to reach 1.17 trillion dollars in 2021, more than half of the total global military expenditure and 5.6 times that of China."
Nato allies joined the United States on Monday in formally naming Beijing as a "constant security challenge".
Washington has singled out China as a particular threat, especially in the South China Sea, where Beijing has built and militarised artificial islands, as well as over Chinese attempts to intimidate self-governing Taiwan, which the mainland government claims as its own territory to be annexed by military force if necessary.
Nato countries, including the US, the UK, France and Germany recently took part in naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific area, to the annoyance of Beijing.
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The Chinese mission to the European Union accuses Nato of conjuring up a military threat from China in order to justify its own agenda.
China will "never give up the right to maintain peace but unswervingly defend our sovereignty, security and development interests," the mission said.
Undermine global order
Nato leaders said China is working to undermine global order, a message in line with US President Joe Biden's calls to confront Beijing on China's trade, military and human rights practices.
In a summit statement, alliance leaders said that China's goals and "assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security."
The Nato leaders expressed concern about what they describe as China's "coercive policies," the opaque ways it is modernising its armed forces and its use of disinformation.
In response, the Chinese mission said Beijing's military was purely for defensive purposes and its military modernisation was "reasonable, rational, open and transparent".
Nato countries also maintain bases around the world and "send their aircraft carriers all over the place to display their military might," the Chinese mission said.
The Chinese mission also referred to the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia in 1999, which killed three state media journalists. Nato has said that was the result of faulty targeting but most Chinese believe it was a deliberate attack.
The mission also said China's nuclear arsenal is 20 times smaller than that possessed by Nato, and that it would never be the first to use such weapons or use them against non-nuclear nations.
"We will not pose a 'systemic challenge' to anyone, but if anyone wants to pose a 'systemic challenge' to us, we will not sit idly by," the mission said.
Nato should "expend more energy on advancing dialogue and cooperation, and do more things that are truly conducive to maintaining international and regional security and stability," the Chinese statement said.