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China hones in on NATO

From Lisa Rose Weaver
CNN Correspondent

In the past Beijing perceived NATO as a puppet of the United States

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CNN's Lisa Rose Weaver reports on China's interest in NATO and its intentions in Central Asia in the war on terrorism.
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- More than a year ago China was at the center of diplomatic momentum to increase the clout of the Shanghai Five -- a regional cooperation group comprised of its Central Asian neighbors.

Since then, the U.S. led war on terror has landed an American military presence in Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries -- a strategic shift, say analysts, which prompted Beijing to find out more about NATO and its intentions in the region.

"From the perspective of a Chinese strategist, the global war against terrorism is an issue of significant concern because it weighs the possibility of the long-term deployment of American and other western forces in Central Asia for a long time, " says Evan Medeiros of RAND, a leading research and development think-tank.

NATO was once perceived in China as a puppet of the United States.

When U.S. forces, as part of a NATO operation, bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, angered protestors saw it not as an accident, but as part of a plan to contain Beijing's military aspirations.

But China's leadership now appears less focused on a bilateral world view and more engaged in multi-lateral cooperation.

"The dialogue between NATO and China will indicate that for me, it seems to be focused in future Chinese policy, becoming more multilateralism and less bilateralism," says Yan Xuetong of Tsinghua University.

So far, Beijing's interest in NATO has focused on beginning a strategic dialogue designed to enhance China's sense of national security.

National security, say observers, also explains China's approach to another topic -- ballistic missile proliferation.

By one analysis, the transparency requirement for an upcoming international code of conduct on proliferation prompted Beijing to decide not to sign on.

"Any information regarding Beijing's ballistic missile program is so highly secret in China that revealing any kind of information is simply a non starter for the Chinese," says Medeiros.

China has stressed it nonetheless will keep on working with other countries to curb missile proliferation.

The image Beijing chooses to cultivate is of a country increasingly engaged with the global community and supportive of the U.S. led war on terror -- but while China consistently steps up to the plate, the field of its most vital strategic concerns lies fairly close to home.

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