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459 words - August 15, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
On March 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin greatly valued "the symbolic gesture of the first visit abroad" of Xi Jinping as President of China. Since then, the symbol has concretized into unprecedented joint military maneuvers and training between the two countries. In July, Chinese and Russian naval forces participating in the "Joint Sea-2013" drills conducted three days of maneuvers, including air-defense, maritime replenishment, countering submarine threats, joint escort, and rescuing of hijacked ships. According to the Chinese Defense Ministry, 7 vessels from China's North Sea Fleet and South Sea Fleet and 12 vessels from Russia's Pacific Fleet took part in the week-long exercises.
This month, Chinese and Russian forces participated in the "Peace Mission-2013" 20-day long joint anti-terrorism drill in Chelyabinsk in Russia's Ural Mountainous region. The exercises have been conducted in three phases, including troop deployment, war planning and campaign drills. Approximately 600 troops – including infantry, air force, logistics, planning and command groups – from each country attended the drills, "meant to enhance mutual trust and pragmatic cooperation between the two armed forces, and improve their capability to combat terrorism," according to Chinese military officials.
"The size of the drill is not much larger than those held before, but it's rare that the two countries hold two drills within a month," said Li Shuyin, a researcher on Central Asian and Russian military studies at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences. Anyway, from a diplomatic viewpoint, the military maneuvers have shown dramatic improvement in the two countries' mutual trust, even though they have held similar drills regularly since 2003. Three main facts could actually explain such a rapprochement, said DiploNews.
Firstly, the cooling of Russia's relations with the United States and the European Union certainly encouraged Russia to work more closely with China on the international scene. Secondly, the rebalancing of the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific region and the subsequent strengthening of US' military alliances with its traditional and new allies in the area – Japan, ROK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, and even Vietnam – oblige China to build greater strategic depth, and Russia, as one of the two most important nuclear military powers, is China's most sensible choice. Thirdly, China's military, though quickly expanding, will still be under construction for several decades to come and Russia has much military experience and knowledge to share.
China mostly benefits from Russia's sentiment that its interests are being tested and jeopardized everywhere, in Europe with missile defense, in the Middle East with the ongoing crisis in Syria or inside Russia itself with so-called "interference" in domestic politics by foreign NGOs. Meanwhile, the new Chinese leadership "moves forward" with the US which, in turn, pushes Russia into China's arms.
This looks like a Chinese win-win.
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