Air cover

Global Times - - Front Page -

Mil­i­tary he­li­copters take up po­si­tions dur­ing a Chi­nese and Rus­sian mil­i­tary train­ing op­er­a­tion on cross­ing wa­ter bar­ri­ers at the Tsugol train­ing base in Rus­sia’s Tran­sBaikal re­gion. The Rus­sian Vos­tok-2018, or East-2018, mil­i­tary ex­er­cise of­fi­cially started in the Rus­sian Far East on Tues­day. About 3,200 troops from China are par­tic­i­pat­ing. The joint com­bat op­er­a­tion com­mand train­ing ses­sion kicked off on Wed­nes­day

Rus­sia launched its big­gest mil­i­tary drills Vos­tok-2018 (East2018) since the Cold War Tues­day, and the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army sent over 3,000 troops and over 1,000 pieces of mil­i­tary equip­ment. The West is an­a­lyz­ing at which coun­try the mil­i­tary drills are tar­geted.

Vos­tok-2018 is a mas­sive mil­i­tary ex­er­cise with as many as 300,000 troops par­tic­i­pat­ing. In the Chi­nese peo­ple’s opin­ion, the drills’ pri­mary po­lit­i­cal pur­pose is to show Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary strength in­stead of pre­par­ing for bat­tle with a spe­cific en­emy.

Rus­sia has vast ter­ri­tory and a small pop­u­la­tion and mil­i­tary is its strong point. One of Rus­sia’s tra­di­tions is show­ing its mil­i­tary mus­cle and scar­ing off Moscow’s po­ten­tial in­tim­ida­tors, es­pe­cially when Rus­sia is rel­a­tively weak.

The coun­try that con­tests with Rus­sia strate­gi­cally tends to be­lieve that the mil­i­tary drills are aimed at it­self. Among ma­jor pow­ers, China is the near­est to Vos­tok-2018, while the US is the far­thest. China doesn’t re­gard the drills as tar­get­ing Beijing and China sent troops to par­tic­i­pate. The US may feel un­com­fort­able con­sid­er­ing that Wash­ing­ton has squeezed Moscow the hard­est.

There are two pur­poses be­hind China’s par­tic­i­pa­tion. First, it is to strengthen friend­ship be­tween the two mil­i­taries and con­sol­i­date the Chi­naRus­sia com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship of co­or­di­na­tion. Sec­ond, China can learn from Rus­sia’s wartime ex­pe­ri­ence and thus be more fa­mil­iar with ac­tual com­bat.

It’s nat­u­ral that the out­side world in­ter­pret the mil­i­tary drills geopo­lit­i­cally. How­ever, if over-in­ter­preted, the drills’ in­signif­i­cant mean­ing could be ex­ag­ger­ated.

China doesn’t want to be any ma­jor power’s en­emy. China will fo­cus on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment for a long time. China’s ex­ter­nal relations are based on ex­pand­ing re­cip­ro­cal co­op­er­a­tion, not force­fully ex­pand­ing sphere of in­flu­ence. As long as other ma­jor pow­ers don’t chal­lenge China’s core in­ter­est or co­erce China, Beijing’s mil­i­tary will never be their op­po­nent.

The China-Rus­sia com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship of co­or­di­na­tion is de­fen­sive. Such strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion has pro­vided the two coun­tries with a sense of se­cu­rity.

China’s mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties ba­si­cally take place in its off­shore wa­ters. The far­thest coun­try that Rus­sian mil­i­tary reached in re­cent years is Syria. The US still con­trols the cen­tral part of the ma­jor oceans, and nei­ther China nor Rus­sia has the ba­sis to chal­lenge US global lead­er­ship.

China and Rus­sia are not al­lies, and they are firm in not forg­ing an al­liance. But the out­side world shouldn’t make China and Rus­sia feel an ur­gent need to strengthen their mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion.

It’s nor­mal that two ma­jor pow­ers have sub­tle geopo­lit­i­cal con­flicts if they are neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, es­pe­cially China and Rus­sia with their his­tor­i­cal dis­putes. While China-Rus­sia relations are well-de­vel­oped, they both have a twisted re­la­tion­ship with a dis­tant ma­jor power. It would miss the cen­tral point to dis­cuss the po­ten­tial tar­get of this mil­i­tary drills. Other coun­tries should re­think why they can’t be­come good friends with Beijing and Moscow.

Photo: Xin­hua

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