- After pandemic suspension, China pledges to restart military drills with Indonesia, send navy delegation to Bangladesh celebrations
- Strengthening regional military engagements a pillar of Xi Jinping’s ‘great nation diplomacy’
China has restarted its military exchanges with foreign counterparts after the partnerships were suspended for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of its reopening, the PLA Navy sailed the hospital ship Peace Ark to Indonesia for a week-long humanitarian aid mission earlier this month.
The navy will soon send a formal combat vessel to Bangladesh, in what analysts said was a signal that Beijing intends to strengthen strategic partnerships with its Asian neighbours, a pillar of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “active engagement in great nation diplomacy”.
The People’s Liberation Army will send a delegation led by one of its most advanced destroyers to attend the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding president of Bangladesh.
Chinese officials will also attend a national celebration to mark Bangladesh’s 50th anniversary of independence, according to a statement released on Thursday by China’s defence ministry.
On Friday, Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe met his counterparts from Indonesia and Singapore in Shaanxi province, and promised that the PLA would resume its long-standing joint military training and exercises with the two Asean members.
In his address to defence ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia on Wednesday, Wei repeated China’s promise to work with other countries to build “a strong regional security barrier,” state news agency Xinhua reported.
Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at National University of Singapore, said Beijing has been keen on improving ties with Asean countries. He said the relationships play an important strategic role in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade pact that China intends to join.
“Beijing realised that only a good partnership with the Asean members would help China break out of the US containment,” Wu said.
Zhou Chenming, a researcher with the Beijing-based Yuan Wang military science and technology think tank, said that during the 20th Communist Party congress, Xi urged officials to reduce tensions with Asean members, and even Japan, all of which are involved in territorial disputes with China over claims in the South and East China seas.
Chinese defence spokesperson Wu Qian told a monthly press briefing on Thursday that the Chinese delegation “introduced its main achievements” over the past decade, including practising global security initiatives and maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.
Wu said the PLA had invited foreign counterparts to join its annual naval conference in Qingdao, Shandong province next year, adding that China’s navy “will continue to deepen communication, mutual trust and cooperation with navies around the world”.