Russia, China Hold Large-Scale Joint Military Drills

The exercises in north-central China involve 10,000 ground troops and air forces.
August 11, 2021 | 09:13
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he Sibu/Cooperation-2021 drills in China's Ningxia region are being watched for signs that China and Russia are expanding military cooperation [File: Jason Lee/Reuters]
The Sibu/Cooperation-2021 drills in China's Ningxia region are being watched for signs that China and Russia are expanding military cooperation. Photo: Reuters

Russia and China have begun a large-scale joint military exercise in China’s north-central Ningxia region, involving more than 10,000 troops, Russia's defence ministry said on August 10.

The Sibu/Cooperation-2021 drills are being watched for signs that China and Russia are expanding military cooperation as they spar with the West, according to Reuters.

Russia's Kommersant newspaper said the drills taking place until August 13 marked the first time Russian soldiers would use Chinese weapons. Russia and China have conducted drills since 2005.

Moscow sent Sukhoi Su-30SM fighter aircraft, motorised rifle units and air defence systems to the exercise that was focused on counter-terrorism, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The drills come as the Taliban has gained ground in Afghanistan where security has deteriorated as the United States withdraws its troops after two decades of war, creating a security headache for Moscow.

More than 10,000 troops from Russia and China will perform joint exercises over the next two weeks, using each other’s weaponry for the first time XINHUA/REX FEATURES
More than 10,000 troops from Russia and China will perform joint exercises, using each other’s weaponry for the first time. Photo: XINHUA/REX FEATURES

Separately, Russia on August 10 completed joint drills in Tajikistan with Uzbek and Tajik forces near the Afghan border. Moscow also said it was bulking up its military base in Tajikistan with assault rifles and other weapons.

Moscow pivoted to China in 2014 as its political ties with the West sank to post Cold-War lows over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. China is Russia's biggest trade partner.

The exercises reflect new height of partnership: Xinhua

China’s Xinhua news agency cited Chinese and Russian officials as saying the joint exercise aims to deepen the joint anti-terrorism operations between the Chinese and Russian militaries and demonstrate the firm determination and strength of the two countries to jointly safeguard international and regional security and stability.

It reflects the new height of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era and of the strategic mutual trust, pragmatic exchanges and coordination between the two countries, the officials said.

File photo: Chinese and Russian military forces are engaged in joint exercises through Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in northwestern China as ties grow between the two autocratic states.
File photo: Chinese and Russian military forces are engaged in joint exercises through Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, in northwestern China as ties grow between the two autocratic states. Source: AP

Richard McGregor, a China expert at the Australia-based Lowy Institute think-tank, said the burgeoning relationship between Beijing and Moscow was more than a “marriage of convenience”.

“That [phrase] underestimates the depth of their shared interests, and of course the biggest one is opposing the US and undermining the US and the West,” McGregor told Al Jazeera.

The Ningxia region borders Xinjiang, where China is accused of detaining more than one million Uighurs in internment camps.

Critics, including the US, have said those held have been subjected to human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, forced labour, torture, forced sterilisation and family separation.

China has denied the allegations and claimed the camps are “re-education” centres set up to fight “separatism and terrorism” and boost economic development.

Moscow has backed Beijing in its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea (Bien Dong Sea), over which China clashed with the US on at a recent high-level UN Security Council meeting on maritime security, Al Jazeera said. /.

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