When NATO put forward a new blueprint for the future last month, the alliance did not mince words on China.

China, NATO declared, was a systemic "challenge,” calling out the country for the first time in its mission statement. The country’s policies were "coercive,” its cyberoperations "malicious” and its rhetoric "confrontational.” Together with Russia, Beijing was striving to "subvert the rules-based international order,” the alliance said — efforts that "run counter to our values and interests.”

For Beijing, the forceful declaration by NATO reinforced a sense that China is being encircled by hostile powers bent on hobbling the country’s ascent. Adding to that concern, the NATO summit included, also for the first time, the leaders of four Asia-Pacific countries: South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.