PLA expands overseas missions

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/24 23:48:39 Last Updated: 2017/7/25 7:23:12

Chinese military operations draw global attention

A Chinese navy ship arrives at Russia's major Baltic Fleet base in the western seaport town of Baltiysk on July 21 for the Russian-Chinese Naval Interaction-2017 exercises. Russian navy held a welcoming ceremony. The drills will involve nearly 10 ships of different classes and over 10 aircraft and helicopters from both the Russian and Chinese navies. Photo: CFP

With the development of the Chinese military and growing Chinese interests overseas, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is eyeing expanding cooperation with Belt and Road countries, experts said.

China's current military operations around the globe, such as joint naval drills with Russia in the Baltic Sea and a PLA navy's intelligence vessel's voyage close to the northeast coast of Australia, have drawn global attention.

"China's navy vessels and aircraft have freedom of navigation and overflight in non-sovereign international maritime regions just like any other country," Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said on Monday.

He made the remarks in response to questions on the Chinese navy's recent appearances and operations in waters near the US, the UK and Australia at a press conference about the development of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday in Beijing.

"The Chinese navy's operations can't be counted as 'high-profile.' The PLA has actively increased military exchanges with other countries, and participated in many missions like international peacekeeping, overseas escort duties, humanitarian rescue and disaster relief, and these have shown the good image and responsibility of a major power's military force," Wu said when asked about whether the Chinese navy's high-profile operations overseas would become a new normal at a time when China is planning to boost its naval strength.

Responsible military power

At present, among the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, China is the largest contributor of military and police forces and the second-largest financial contributor to UN peace missions, according to UN data.

In the nearly 30 years since China joined UN Peacekeeping Operations, more than 31,000 Chinese peacekeepers from the military and police have participated in 29 UN missions throughout the world.

Data as of June 2016 from the Office for Peacekeeping Affairs of the Chinese defense ministry show that Chinese peacekeepers have made tremendous efforts, including building and maintaining 13,000 roads and over 300 bridges, clearing more than 9,400 landmines and unexploded objects, receiving 160,000 patients and transporting 1.2 million tons of materials and equipment. 

"Apart from participating in peacekeeping missions, China has also contributed a lot to training UN peacekeepers," said Sheng Hongsheng, a professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law and former UN Military Observer in DR Congo.

"Chinese troops have adhered to the UN Outlines for Peacekeeping Operations Training and have established training systems at the high, intermediate and primary levels. China also offers training curricula for foreign officers and police. By shifting from trainees to trainers, China plays an important role in UN training systems," Sheng said.

Cooperation with partners

Apart from UN peacekeeping missions, China has cooperated with many countries in defense and security.

China has close military ties with Russia and other Shanghai Cooperation Organization members which mainly focus on counterterrorism and safeguarding world peace, said Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the PLA Rocket Force.

From July 29 to August 12, China will co-hold the International Army Games 2017 with Russia, according to the Chinese defense ministry.

"Teams from Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Egypt have arrived in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to take part in the Safe Environment international contest, held as part of the International Army Games 2017," the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday, TASS reported.

China also has cooperation with the US and NATO countries, but this mainly focuses on non-traditional areas like search and rescue, Song said.

Last year, the Chinese navy sent a fleet to join the Rim of the Pacific 2016 (RIMPAC 2016) multinational naval exercise which is led by the US, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

By taking part in joint maneuvers with US troops and other militaries, China's military can benefit from understanding their strategy, tactics and how they accomplish their missions, Sheng said.

China also has military cooperation with partners like Pakistan, Thailand and Turkey. These countries' military forces are armed with some Western weapons, and the type of cooperation with them is military competition simulation, like air combat simulation with both countries' fighter jets, Song said.

"This will largely help the PLA gain semi-combat experience in fighting against military forces that have Western weapons, since we have not fought with any country in decades. The cooperation with these partners is truly important for us," Song further said.

The number of PLA partners will be increased in the future, especially among Belt and Road regions. We will need to work together with our partners to safeguard our economic cooperation, Song said.

Newspaper headline: PLA expands missions

Posted in: MILITARY

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