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News Update
18-08-05, 00:04
Russian-Chinese war games begin

By Nick Childs

BBC World Affairs correspondent

Russian and Chinese armed forces are starting a week of major exercises - dubbed Peace Mission 2005.

They are the first of their kind, involving air, sea, and ground units from both countries, including long-range Russian bombers.

It is reported that at least 10,000 personnel in all will take part.

The manoeuvres will begin in Vladivostok in Russia's Far East before moving to the Yellow Sea and China's Shandong peninsula.

Clearly, these exercises are a significant step for both countries - even in purely military terms, they appear ambitious.

They also add some substance to the political rhetoric that's now emerging from these two formerly uneasy and even hostile neighbours of a new strategic partnership.

And they underscore a common view of the desirability of a multipolar world in which there's some counterweight to US power.


Still, officially, the scenario for these exercises - aid to an imaginary state suffering political violence - isn't aimed against any specific country.

And, while the United States regularly sounds alarm bells about China's growing military strength and say they'll be keeping an eye on events, they also insist they're not particularly worried.

The Taiwanese, too, will be watching these exercises closely, although they are being held at some distance from Taiwan itself, and there is no appetite in Russia to be sucked into the island's argument with China.


There are specific practical benefits for both participants in these manoeuvres.

For the Russians, they are a showcase for possible further arms sales to Beijing.

For the Chinese, they're a chance to participate in the kind of complicated operations that are an increasing priority for them.

But there are clear limits to all of this.

These manoeuvres won't significantly alter the regional military balance.

And both Moscow and Beijing remain wary of each other.

For Moscow, there must be questions over China's long-term strategic goals, and for Beijing continuing doubts about Russia's reliability as an ally.

And, in the long run, this hardly looks like a stable relationship.

Russia approaches it from the perspective of a former and declining great power.

And while China is a country whose ambitions for the moment outstrip its actual power, that may not be the case for too much longer.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/18 03:31:52 GMT