Russia and China have wrapped up their five-day joint strategic military drills in Northwest China involving over 10,000 troops and advanced weaponry as top officials in both countries vowed further collaborations amid rising US-led provocations in eastern Europe and the pacific.
The last day of the drills – dubbed Zapad/Interaction-2021 -- began with live-fire drills on Friday imitating an anti-terrorism operation featuring advanced Chinese J-20 stealth fighter jets and JH-7 bombers which conducted an air raid against hostile frontline command centers and air defense observation outposts, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
During the exercise, the Chinese and Russian troops also used a specially designed joint command system for the first time, which interconnected both sides' combat systems, enabled teleconference and allowed the transfer of combat documents, significantly boosting systematic combat efficiency.
Praising the joint military maneuvers, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu suggested that the drills could further develop cooperation between Beijing and Moscow after flying to China to observe the air, sea, and ground exercises that saw Russian forces using Chinese weaponry for the first time.
"We have achieved a high level of interaction between our armed forces on land, in the air and at sea," Shoigu emphasized in a statement released by the Russian Defense Ministry. "This increase is an important trend towards further activity."
Echoing Shoigu’s remarks, China’s prominent Global Times daily cited Chinese experts as describing relations between Moscow and Beijing as “better than allies,” insisting that the two military powers “are capable of jointly tackling regional security issues including terrorism as well as global challenges brought up by countries like the US.”
Although Russia and China have carried out joint exercises since 2005, the Russian defense chief further noted that the latest maneuvers marked the first time the Russian military had taken part in an event of this kind in China.
Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe also joined Shoigu in inspecting the live-fire drills on Friday, which were followed by talks between the two counterparts and the signing of related cooperation documents, according to a press release issued by China’s Defense Ministry.
Senior People’s Liberation Army Colonel Li Shuyin -- an expert at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences who also observed the joint exercises – said that “some countries, particularly the US, have been attempting to suppress China and Russia.”
Pointing to reported speculations that the China-Russia joint drills were also aimed at countering the US, Li added, “If such speculations come from the US, they must be trying to shift the blame from themselves to China and Russia; if they come from third parties, this means people understand that it is the US that threatens global military security.”
He said none of the wars waged by Washington over the past years protected regional security and stability. He added the US itself made the situation worse, citing the withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan after a 20-year military occupation as a prime example.
The development came a week after Russia announced plans to hold two consecutive military drills with Chinese and Belarusian forces across its eastern and western borders involving tens of thousands of troops amid persisting provocations by US and NATO military forces.
Also this week, Russia concluded joint military drills in Tajikistan with Uzbek and Tajik forces near the border with Afghanistan, where rapid advances by Taliban insurgents – following the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces -- have generated a global security challenge.
Separate Russian military maneuvers with Indian forces in the Russian city of Volgograd -- involving nearly 500 soldiers – also ended on Thursday, according to local press reports.
China remains Russia's largest trade partner. Russian Railways announced this week that the first railway bridge between Russia and China, over the Amur River, would open soon, marking a further boost for bilateral trade.