China and Russia recently completed a series of military exercises called Zapad/Interaction-2021. The drills were conducted at the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in north-central China. They began on August 9 and lasted for five days.
The Chinese Ministry of Defense called the activity a “joint planning and field operations” that strengthen interoperability and synergy between the two nations “against the background of jointly safeguarding regional security and stability.”
The Zapad/Interaction-2021 involved 10,000 troops — a combined number of the Chinese Western Theater Command and the Eastern Military District of Russia.
The activity marked a number of firsts for both countries. It was the first joint military operation hosted by China since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, and the first time for both countries to use a joint command and control system.
For Russia, it marked the first time its troops used equipment and combat vehicles provided by the Chinese military.
China and Russia, two superpowers that are known to have a common adversary in the United States, have a relationship that is often described as “a political marriage of convenience.”
For Artyom Lukin, an associate professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, “it is getting clear that Russia-China military drills are not just symbolic shows of camaraderie, but are increasingly aimed at enhancing battlefield interoperability,” he told the South China Morning Post.