Europe sees China through a Russian lens, and Beijing is not happy

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Germany on Tuesday.

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Hong Kong (CNN)As leaders of major Western democracies and their allies met in two back-to-back summits this week in Europe, their focus was clear: keeping pressure on Russia as its brutal assault on Ukraine enters its fifth month.

But another country was also pulled into the spotlight in those meetings: China. And Beijing is not happy about it.
For the first time, China was included in NATO's "Strategic Concept," adopted at the bloc's summit in Madrid on Wednesday. The document, last updated in 2010, lays out the security challenges facing the alliance while outlining a course of action, and now says China's ambitions and "coercive policies" challenge the allies' interests, security and values.
    The new language has prompted China to accuse NATO of being a "Cold War remnant."
      "The Strategic Concept claims that other countries pose challenges, but it is NATO that is creating problems around the world," China's Mission to the EU said in a statement Wednesday.
      "We urge NATO to stop provoking confrontation by drawing ideological lines, abandon the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game approach, and stop spreading disinformation and provocative statements against China. Since NATO positions China as a "systemic challenge," we have to pay close attention and respond in a coordinated way," it said.
      Earlier this week, the Group of Seven (G7) major democratic economies included tough language on China in their own communique, released days after launching an infrastructure investment plan to counter China's Belt and Road Initiative.
        European leaders have grown increasingly wary of China in recent years and those views have hardened over the past few months as Beijing has repeatedly refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and bolstered its ties with the Kremlin.
        "We see a deepening strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing. And China's growing assertiveness and its coercive policies have consequences for the security of Allies and our partners," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference Wednesday.
        "China is not our adversary. But we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents," he said.
        Differences still exist between countries in the bloc on how to treat China, observers say. Some NATO members want to ensure the focus remains squarely on Russia, while the United States -- by far the block's most powerful member -- has pegged China as the "most serious long-term challenge to the international order."
        But the developments this week, which show China to be higher on these bodies' agendas than ever before, signal an increasing alignment between the US and its partners.
        They also mark a significant setback for Beijing, which has tried to drive a wedge between the American and European stances on China, observers say.
        "The combination of the kind of language used by the G7 and (China's formal inclusion) in NATO strategic documents is indeed a blow for (China), and something that they would have hoped and wished to be able to prevent," said Andrew Small, a senior transatlantic fellow in the Asia Program at The German Marshall Fund of the United States.
        "It's an exceptionally strong period in terms of transatlantic cooperation and that translates for China in ways that they're very concerned about," he said.

        China's response

        China's concerns have been clear this week, as its Foreign Ministry pushed back on the NATO designation in regular scheduled press briefings.
        "China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace. It does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs or export ideology, still less engage in long-arm jurisdiction, economic coercion or unilateral sanctions. How could China be labeled a 'systemic challenge'?" ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday.