The number of PLA drills with other countries has more than doubled as military diplomacy plays a bigger part in foreign policy. As tensions with the West grow, China has increased the quantity and scope of its military exercises with ally Russia.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has expanded its diplomatic reach
As a result of President Xi Jinping’s attempts to modernize the country’s military and win worldwide respect, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has expanded its diplomatic reach during the past ten years.
In an article from South China Morning Post, the South China Morning Post examined Xinhua state news agency stories and discovered that since 2013, China has performed more than twice as many joint military drills with foreign forces. Additionally, its fleet has visited more ports, particularly in the Global South. Additionally, more visits to foreign counterparts have been made by military leaders in China’s senior military command, the Central Military Commission.
The PLA, which celebrated its 96th birthday last week, has made significant efforts to project an image as a force for peace, but it has also improved its ability to send troops farther from home. The US and some other Western nations have expressed mistrust over it, claiming that China is attempting to change the global order in opposition to liberal democratic norms.
China’s first overseas base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa raised questions, the PLA’s docking of the Yuan Wang 5 tracking ship in Sri Lanka in 2022 drew strong objections from India, and more recently, the Ream naval base in Cambodia that China helped build raised concerns that the Chinese navy could establish a presence there despite Beijing’s repeated denials.
Randall Schriver, a commissioner on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in a hearing on Chinese military diplomacy in January, said that under the direction of the Communist Party and Central Military Commission, the PLA is engaging in military diplomacy of various kinds, is conducting bilateral and multilateral exercises with greater frequency, is creating foreign bases and access opportunities, is engaging in operational military activities with foreign countries.
Reviewing Xinhua news reports from the 18th party conference in 2012, when Xi assumed leadership, it was clear that even as the PLA expanded its diplomatic reach, Pakistan and Russia continued to be its top two military allies. Even with the disturbance brought on by Covid-19, relations with them both have only gotten stronger.
But experts believe Beijing still falls far behind in the substance and depth of cooperative military exercises with other nations that the PLA hopes to pursue. Additionally, communication between China and the US, its main geopolitical rival, has decreased.
Military drills between China and Russia have covered the widest range of topics
According to the Post investigation, military drills between China and Russia have covered the widest range of topics as tensions with the West have increased, with live fire simulations and collaborative rescue missions being the most frequent. Since the 18th Party Congress in 2012, China has participated in at least 45 exercises that also included Russia, 20 of which were bilateral.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the two nations resumed conducting drills, such as Zapad/Interaction-2021 and Joint Sea 2021. That was in spite of China’s three years of restricted borders, which saw a dramatic decline in diplomatic outreach.
China conducts less extensive and extensive drills with its Asean neighbors than does the US. China only participated in the search and rescue phase of the international 2023 Cobra Gold exercises in Thailand with 25 personnel. With more than 6,000 soldiers, the US sent its largest deployment in ten years.
The United States’ lengthy history of cooperation with countries in the Asia-Pacific region may be a factor in the minimal interaction between Asean states and China.
Along with providing executive education to Asian military commanders, the US military has reached out to the region by supplying numerous Asian nations with American weapons. As a result of employing American weaponry, such as F-16 fighter jets, and abiding by the confidentiality requirements that go along with deploying these weapons, many elements of US training have been incorporated into the military training of Asean nations.
She cited interviews with officials from Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines in support of her claim that Asean nations continue to take part in them because they want to keep good relations with both the US and China, reports South China Morning Post.