SINGAPORE — China tested European patience on Saturday, with a veteran Chinese diplomat blaming Russia’s war on Ukraine on a failing security architecture in Europe.
It fell to Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren to challenge this very Chinese interpretation.
“I was actually a little surprised to hear it,” Ollongren told POLITICO in an interview moments after he impromptuly rebutted ex-ambassador Cui Tiankai during a panel at the Shangri-La Dialogue. in Singapore. “That’s very, very wrong.”
Cui, a former envoy to the United States and unofficial adviser to the Chinese delegation to this high-level Asian security forum, told the event on Saturday that Europe had done little to secure the continent, and suggested that other nations at the forum should take a lesson from China and Asia instead.
“Before, we looked to Europe for its experience in regional integration. But these days, maybe people in Europe could turn to us instead,” Cui told the rally. “We don’t impose our ways on you, but maybe you can learn something useful from our experience, from our success,” he said.
“And our region should also learn something very important – from your lack of success. I don’t want to use the word ‘failure’, [so] a lack of success,” said Cui, who sat next to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on the panel.
“We will continue with our Asian ways of managing our security situation and dealing with any issues,” Cui said. “We don’t need an Asian NATO. We will not want to see NATO’s role expanded in our region.
While the Ukrainian minister avoided criticizing Beijing – saying only that Ukraine should win the war, not negotiate – Ollongren hit back at Cui’s assertion.
“The ambassador suggested that Europe has not been very successful in managing its security because of the war in Ukraine. Of course, I understand that there is a war in Ukraine, but I think it is not the result of mismanagement of our security situation in Europe. This is the result of not respecting the way we want to manage security in Europe,” said the Dutch minister.
“I also think there is no disrespect for China or disrespect for Chinese culture in Europe; we have a very big respect for that,” she said.
Ollongren, whose country has taken an increasingly critical stance of China over ties with Russia and technological advancements in military fields, added after the panel that what Cui presented was a ” false perception of the situation”.
“You cannot blame Europe or European countries for Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” she said.
Ollongren added that since Cui was no longer an ambassador, she would wait for Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu to state the official position in his opening speech on Sunday.