Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Australian troops to join China in disaster exercises [The Age]


Australia: Despite taking sides with the U.S. during recent rounds of China-bashing, Australia pushes the agenda to leverage both strategic partner U.S. and economic catalyst China.

In a move reminiscent for the Chinese as a strategy to contain it, this recent spate of U.S. determination for Asia-Pacific pre-eminence  seems to spell trouble for the region. After agreeing to host 2500 Marines near Darwin as a U.S. hedge against Chinese muscle-flexing in the region, it could have been expected that the Chinese retaliate in kind and not just rhetoric. I am not sure if the report which states that ‘Chinese military leaders have chosen not to retaliate by cutting or downgrading military relations’ is valid.

From record it seems the Chinese do not act on impulse. They wait for the right moment – continuing what essentially is a civil defence exercise has little to do with hard power.

– – –

Australian troops to join China in disaster exercises
John Garnaut, Beijing
Source – The Age, published November 26, 2011

Australian soldiers will soon be landing in central China for joint exercises with the People’s Liberation Army, demonstrating that relations with Australia’s dominant trading partner remain on track.

The military emergency rescue exercises are modest in scale but highly significant in timing, coming just a fortnight after Australia greatly increased military co-operation with the United States by agreeing to host 2500 US marines near Darwin.

The US-Australia collaboration was framed as part of President Barack Obama’s move to reassert the US presence in Asia as a hedge against Chinese muscle-flexing in the region.

Several Chinese military pundits suggested the move was designed to ”contain” China, with one retired officer reminding The Saturday Age that Chinese ballistic missiles can comfortably reach Darwin.

Professor Zhu Feng, a security expert at Peking University, warned that the stronger US military presence in Australia and the region would fuel nationalistic sentiment and could invite a more assertive Chinese military posture.

But next week’s China-Australia exercises, confirmed late yesterday, showed Chinese military leaders have chosen not to retaliate by cutting or downgrading military relations.

Fifteen members of an Australian Defence Force emergency rescue team will line up for a day of disaster relief planning on Monday, followed by field exercises on Tuesday.

They will join about 20 members of the PLA’s Chengdu Military Region headquarters for rescue drills at a mock earthquake disaster zone at the Comprehensive Emergency Response Training Base at Chongyi.

The exercise – set to take place in a fictitious third country – will involve civilians being ”rescued” from earthquake rubble and buildings. The area is close to the epicentre of an earthquake which killed tens of thousands of people in 2008.

Chinese state-run media provided saturation coverage of the PLA leading rescue efforts, although closer examination has called the success of some of those efforts into question.

Next week’s exercises were agreed in principle in January, planned in detail in May and finalised last month.

A lieutenant-general, with family name Ma, told The Saturday Age that Australian journalists would be welcome to observe the exercises and to interview Chinese officers. He said the bilateral military relationship appeared to be sound. ”In my personal view, of course, it is in good shape,” General Ma said.

The humanitarian relief co-operation forms an important layer in what is becoming a relatively close relationship between the ADF and the highly secretive PLA. Last year, Australian and Chinese forces conducted live-fire naval exercises in Chinese coastal waters as well as joint humanitarian exercises in Australia.

High-level bilateral talks are also held each year, with PLA army chief General Chen Bingde meeting former chief of the defence forces Angus Houston late last year.

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Filed under: Australia, Beijing OIympics, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Greater China, Influence, International Relations, military, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Strategy, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, U.S.

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