Russian Ground Forces participated in a People’s Republic of China (PRC) strategic military training exercise for the first time, marking a distinct military cooperation milestone for the two countries. The People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Defense on 29 July 2021 stated that Russian forces would participate in “Joint Western 2021”. A subsequent PRC MND English language press release calls the event “Zapad 2021”, which is Russia’s Western Military District strategic military exercise. However, Russian press sources and banners featured at the welcome ceremony at Yinchuan Airfield call the event “Sibu/Interaction 2021 Exercise”.
The Sibu/Interaction 2021 Exercise kicks off at a combined arms tactical training base of the PLA Army in Qingtongxia City of West China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region on August 9, 2021. This is the first time the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has invited Russia to participate in a major joint exercise in the PRC despite the PLA having now participated in several iterations of Russian strategic exercises. Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces first began participating in Russian ones in 2018, when the PLA sent roughly 3,000 personnel to Vostok-2018. Despite the PLA’s subsequent participation in Tsentr-2019 and Kavkaz-2020 as well as a string of other joint Sino-Russian military exercises, the PLA appeared to be reticent in opening participation in its own hallmark exercises.
The China-Russia Sibu/Interaction 2021 Exercise is to be held from August 9 to 13 at the combined-arms tactical training base of the PLA Army in Qingtongxia City of West China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. In the following joint exercise, the two sides will fully exchange operational experience. The Russian troops have completed quarantine and observation and will soon attend the pre-exercise training. The Chinese participating troops mainly come from China’s PLA Western Theater Command and Russia’s Eastern Military District. A total of more than 10,000 members will be dispatched, along with multiple types of aircraft, artillery and armored equipment.
The first-phase drill of the Sibu/Interaction 2021 Exercise, a joint military exercise between China and Russia, began in northwest China on Tuesday. The two-day drill is designed to guide military command organs from both sides to optimize their command activities, which are related to intelligence, decision-making, planning, and control and assessment. For the first time, a sub-command for Russian officers has been established within the joint command, and a command information system specially designed for the two militaries has been applied. The joint exercise kicked off on Monday and is set to continue until Aug. 13.