Beijing will send a contingent of troops to Russia at the end of the month to participate in joint military exercises, intended to “deepen cooperation” between the two armies, the Chinese Ministry of Defence has announced.
For several years, China and Russia have maintained closed military ties, conducting joint naval exercises, and anti-terror and partisan drills. Beijing has stated that it wants to take bilateral relations with Russia to “a higher level”, despite international condemnation over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to the statement published on 17 August, China will take part in Russia’s annual “Vostok” (East) exercises, which are scheduled to take place from 30 August to 5 September.
“The aim is to deepen practical and friendly cooperation with the armies of participating countries, enhance the level of strategic collaboration among the participating parties, and strengthen the ability to respond to various security threats,” the Chinese Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Other countries, including BRICS member India, as well as nations within Russia’s influence such as Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and others will participate jointly in the exercises. China and India have previously been accused of providing diplomatic support to Russia’s war in Ukraine, opposing western sanctions and arms sales to Ukraine.
Beijing assures that its participation in the exercises is “unrelated to the current international and regional situation.” This is the second joint military exercise conducted by the two nations this year.
In June, a joint Russian-Chinese exercise forced the United States to scramble fighters, as the countries performed drills close to the coast of allied nation Japan.
Since 2017, the United States has warned that China and Russia were deepening their “military-to-military” relations.
“Indeed, China and Russia appear to be moving toward a higher level of defence cooperation. The three main areas of the bilateral defence relationship –military exercises, military-technical cooperation, and high-level military-to-military contacts– show increases in the level and quality of engagement,” a 2017 U.S report states.
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In 2016, the two nations conducted massive military exercises as part of the “Joint Sea” operation, utilising new weapons systems and ship designs. The Chinese and Russian militaries regularly cooperate on developing new technologies, such as heavy-lifting helicopters and high-tech weapons.
In response to Speaker of US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August, the Chinese government recently announced that it would cancel three core areas of cooperation with the US military, including stopping communications between US and Chinese military officials, cancelling working meetings between the Chinese and American defence departments, and ending meetings aimed at maritime safety.