China, US navy crews compete in matches
Sports diplomacy has become a signature dish on the militaryto-military menu of China and the United States.
As part of improved Sino-US military communications, players from the two navies enjoyed soccer, basketball and tug-of-war matches on Thursday at Qingdao, on China’s eastern coast.
The US teams came from the visiting US 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge, which anchored at Qingdao on Tuesday for a visit.
It was the second visit of the Blue Ridge to the city since 1998, but this time the Chinese missile frigate Yancheng welcomed it and escorted it into port.
Officers, sailors and soldiers from both sides planned to exchange visits aboard the ships, holding meetings for formal communications, as well as a range of sports and cultural events.
In Hawaii in September, soccer and basketball games provided recreation after a PLA navy flotilla, comprising the missile destroyer Qingdao, missile frigate Linyi and supply ship Hongzehu, made a three- day visit to Pearl Harbor.
At the conclusion of Thursday’s visit, the Yancheng and Blue Ridge will conduct a joint drill in waters close to the city that will feature search and rescue as well as telecommunications cooperation.
On Monday afternoon, Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas Jr., commander of the US 7th Fleet, arrived at the coastal city and met with senior members of the Chinese navy’s North Sea Fleet.
Defense authorities of the two major powers have picked up speed with their communication efforts through a range of cooperative events.
In July, four ships of the People’s Liberation Army navy, with about 1,100 soldiers on board, participated in the Rim of the Pacific drills, the world’s largest maritime exercise with participants from many countries.
The Blue Ridge has an interesting history of sports diplomacy with China.
In June 2006, it visited Shanghai, and on the second day a basketball game took place. Military bands from both sides also performed.