China-Saudi Arabia Deepen Military Ties through Joint Naval Operations in South China
China and Saudi Arabia have taken a significant step forward in strengthening their military partnership. On Monday, the two nations inaugurated a comprehensive joint naval special operations exercise, named Blue Sword-2023, in South China. This latest collaboration is a testament to their commitment to bolstering military cooperation and ensuring global peace and stability.
The grand opening ceremony of Blue Sword-2023 was held at a military camp located in Zhanjiang, in the Guangdong Province of South China. The atmosphere was one of discipline and pride, as hundreds of troops representing both nations stood at attention, awaiting the commencement of the exercises. Such a display was symbolic of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s objective to deepen ties with international counterparts, as described in their press release.
Objective and Framework of the Exercise
The primary objective of Blue Sword-2023, as highlighted in the press release, is multi-faceted:
- Building Mutual Trust and Friendship: The exercise aims to enhance the rapport between the Chinese and Saudi Arabian navies, fostering mutual trust and building stronger friendly relations.
- Strengthening Naval Combat Skills: The participating members will get an opportunity to improve their capabilities in naval combat operations.
- Augmenting Joint Operational Capabilities: The exercise will place a particular emphasis on strengthening the joint operational capabilities of overseas armed rescue units.
To make the exercises realistic and relevant to potential real-world scenarios, the organizers have crafted a scenario wherein a commercial ship is captured by adversaries. The challenge for the China-Saudi Arabia joint naval special operations unit will be to launch a maritime assault, neutralize the threat, and subsequently carry out a rescue mission. Such a setting provides a practical testbed for skills that are crucial in today’s geopolitical landscape.
To ensure comprehensive training and maximum skill acquisition, the entire duration of the three-week exercise is meticulously planned. It comprises:
- Basic Training Phase: This will lay down the foundational skills necessary for the subsequent phases.
- Professional Training Phase: Here, participants will delve into specialized areas of naval operations.
- Comprehensive Drill Phase: This final stage will integrate the learnings from the previous phases and involve over 20 diverse training subjects. From live-fire shooting exercises to underwater reconnaissance, from mastering the art of fast-roping from helicopters to cabin searches, and from precision sniping-on-command to disarming underwater explosives — the comprehensive drill phase promises to be both challenging and enriching.
Historical Context and Implications
While this might seem like just another military exercise, its significance lies in its historical context. Blue Sword-2019, the predecessor of this exercise, was hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2019. The current iteration, being the second in the series and the first to be hosted in China, underscores the evolving nature of China-Saudi Arabia relations. Such collaborations have transitioned from one-off events to regular occurrences, pointing towards a deep-rooted and mutually beneficial military partnership.
Analysts observing this partnership highlight the unique strengths each nation brings to the table. Saudi Arabia’s military training, influenced by Western doctrines, complements the distinct advantages of China’s indigenous training system. Such a confluence promises richer learning experiences for both sides.
Further, both the Chinese and Saudi Arabian navies are actively involved in escort missions and anti-piracy operations, especially in regions like the Gulf of Aden and waters near Somalia. Engagements like the Blue Sword exercise are pivotal in honing their combat training, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of their joint missions. As Zhang Junshe, a noted Chinese naval expert, mentioned in an interaction with the Global Times, these exercises will “deepen pragmatic, friendly cooperation.”
Beyond the immediate military implications, the broader strategic significance of these exercises cannot be understated. As part of their commitment to global peacekeeping, both nations view this drill as a platform to improve their capabilities in safeguarding global maritime security and fulfilling international obligations. Zhang emphasized the overarching goal: to promote “peace and stability in the world.”
China’s growing global footprint, especially its overseas investments, cooperation projects, and the diaspora, demands secure sea routes, especially those connecting the Middle East to its shores. These routes are not only vital for trade but are also essential arteries for China’s fuel imports.
An anonymous Chinese military expert, speaking to the Global Times, encapsulated the broader vision behind these exercises. By collaborating with key stakeholders in the region, China aims to foster a peaceful environment, benefiting all involved parties, reflecting its commitment to global peace and stability.
In conclusion, the Blue Sword-2023 exercise is not just a testament to the growing military ties between China and Saudi Arabia, but it also underlines the shared vision of both nations: a world where peace prevails and stability is the norm. Through joint exercises, mutual learning, and collaborative efforts, the two nations hope to pave the way for a more secure future for all.