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Russia and China completed joint naval drills in the East China Sea from Dec. 21-27, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin told Chinese leader Xi Jinping during their call on Dec. 30 that Moscow seeks to strengthen military ties with Beijing.

These developments followed the joint air exercise that included nuclear-capable bombers flying over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, according to the Russian defense ministry’s statement on Nov. 30.

“Chinese planes landed at Russian air bases and vice versa. That was a good indication of the level of integration they’ve worked out … and potential future cooperation. Dismiss it at one’s peril,” said Grant Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine officer and a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.

The joint naval exercise, called the “Maritime Interaction-2022,” included Russia’s Pacific Fleet and was carried out in waters off Zhoushan and Taizhou in China’s Zhejiang Province, the Chinese regime’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. The drills also involved submarine capture, which, according to Newsham, means “anti-submarine warfare [ASW],” such as detecting, locating, and destroying enemy submarines.

Although there’s no official agreement between the two countries, this collaboration between the Russian and Chinese forces strategically targets the United States and Japan, Newsham told The Epoch Times in an email.

“In this case, American and Japanese subs. But it works with any adversary’s subs, too. The American and Japanese submarine forces are a huge problem for China and Russia (and every other enemy), and it’s one area where we still have a big advantage. Thus, the Chinese and the Russians want to improve their ASW capabilities in order to reduce (or eliminate) this U.S./Japanese advantage,” Newsham wrote.

The Russian defensive ministry published a video showing a group of Russian and Chinese warships in the East China Sea. The Russian sailors spoke in Mandarin to the Chinese, and Russian ships fired missiles.

Russia and China hold joint naval drills
The Chinese destroyer Jinan takes part in joint naval drills with Russia in the East China Sea on Dec. 22, 2022. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Newsham said that anti-submarine warfare is a perishable skill and the crewmen need constant training. The two countries train together in many regions of the world, particularly around their respective countries, and this has been the trend for a decade.

“Russia’s main focus is directed westwards towards Europe. But it also wants to maintain its position in the East (northeast Asia). China’s main focus is in East Asia as it wants to dominate and/or control the Asia-Pacific region and to eject the Americans,” said Newsham.

“At the same time, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has interests in Europe, but they are, for now, more economical. So the mutual support Russia and China can provide each other is mutually beneficial.”

According to the expert, this mutual support involves political and propaganda tools, but following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing’s financial support to Moscow has become essential.

“Of course, Beijing drives a hard bargain with Putin. And when the time comes, Russia will assist when/if China attacks Taiwan. All Russia has to do is to move some naval and air forces around, and that will be a useful distraction—preventing the Americans and Japanese from focusing on supporting Taiwan as much as they would like,” he stated.

Russian oil and energy and food, in particular, will also be essential to Chinese efforts to resist the sanctions that would follow in the event the regime attacked Taiwan, according to Newsham.

“Everybody is alarmed at this gradual deepening of Chinese and Russian military ties—and the operational advantages this affords the PLA and Russian forces,” he said.

Messaging

The joint air exercise between Russia and China over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea involved nuclear-capable bombers pushing the Japanese and the South Koreans to express concerns. Newsham said this means problems for Washington, which is also the primary target of their messaging.

“It’s telling Washington and others: ‘Back off. If you don’t, you’ll have bigger problems than you can imagine.’ Of course, if the free nations’ are smart, they’ll band together and exploit Beijing’s and Moscow’s considerable vulnerabilities,” said Newsham.

He pointed out that Beijing claims a good portion of the Russian Far East was wrongfully taken from a weakened China a few centuries ago and intends to take it back when the time is right.

“But for now, there is more to be gained by cooperating with Russia. Russia knows this history and also Chinese intentions. Putin must wake up every morning wondering if there will be five Shenzhens across his side of the border. The Russian Far East is sparsely populated. There are tens of millions of Chinese who are ready, willing, and able to move in,” said Newsham.

Venus Upadhayaya

Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.

 

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