China wrapped up the country’s first multinational peacekeeping exercise on Wednesday, demonstrating the extent of its military might on an enormous training ground ringed by mountains.
Troops from Thailand, Mongolia and Pakistan joined China’s soldiers for the 10-day exercise dubbed “Shared Destiny 2021” at the military base in Queshan county in central Henan province.
China’s defence spending is that the second-largest within the world after the US, and tensions have dramatically increased between rival powers as Beijing has poured trillions of yuan into the modernisation of its military.
But the country has repeatedly sought to allay fears over its military intentions, projecting itself as a peaceful counterpoint to what it calls the “bullying, hegemonic behaviour” of Washington.
Senior Colonel Lu Jianxin told journalists invited to the bottom that the exercise “demonstrates China’s support for the multilateral system centred on the UN” as Beijing sought to place its defence diplomacy on full display.
Blue-helmeted soldiers took turns role-playing various scenarios: civilians and refugees trapped during a brawl, or armed militants attacking UN forces.
Dozens of armoured vehicles, bulldozers, helicopters and tanks — all bearing the UN logo — were mobilised for the event.
As of the top of July, China was the eighth-largest contributor to peacekeeping troops, with 2,158 military personnel engaged around the world, consistent with UN data.
Chinese forces are mainly engaged in South Sudan, Mali, Lebanon and therefore the Democratic Republic of Congo.
During her trip to Asia last month, US vice chairman Kamala Harris described China’s disputes with its neighbours over the South China Sea as undermining “the rules-based order and threaten[ing] the sovereignty of nations”.