China on Tuesday accused NATO of "slandering its peaceful development," a day after leaders of the military alliance warned about "systemic challenges" coming from Beijing.
In a statement by the Chinese mission to the EU, a spokesperson said China is committed to a defense policy that is "defensive in nature" and urged NATO to view China's development in a "rational manner."
"China's stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security," NATO said in a joint communique after a leaders summit in Brussels on Monday.
"China will not present 'systemic challenges' to anyone, but we will not sit by and do nothing if 'systemic challenges' come closer to us," the statement read. "We will never give up our right to uphold peace, and will stand firm in defending our sovereignty, security and development interests."
It called on NATO to stop hyping up in any form the "China threat,” and "devote more of its energy to promoting dialogue and cooperation" to uphold international and regional security and stability.
On NATO's concern over China's military modernization and "rapidly expanding" nuclear arsenal, China said the number of nuclear weapons it has "is by no means in the same league with NATO member states such as the United States."
It said China’s defense budget in 2021 is $209 billion, whereas NATO's defense expenditure is expected to reach $1.17 trillion.
China is one of the world's leading military and economic powers, and the 30-member alliance has become increasingly concerned over its rising influence.
Besides China, the alliance leaders reaffirmed the dual-track approach of defense and dialogue toward Russia, agreed on new cyber defense policy and reiterated their commitment to stand with Afghanistan despite a withdrawal of troops from the war-torn country by Sept. 11.
*Writing by Islamuddin Sajid