By Li Zhenqi, Liu Jianwei and Wu Xu
The International Army Games (IAG) 2019 will commence on August 3 in 10 countries simultaneously including China and Russia, and China will continue to host and participate in some of the competitions. So far China has basically completed its domestic preparations for hosting the competitions and has begun to transport participating troops for overseas competitions. What are the new highlights of this year's IAG? Compared with previous ones, what are the new changes in our competitions? As the games approach, our reporter interviewed an official of the training management department under the Central Military Commission.
Question: The Chinese military has taken part in the IAG for six years in a row and hosted certain competitions in China for three consecutive years. What are the main considerations for that?
Answer: We know that hosting and taking part in the IAG is a practical way of demonstrating the Chinese military's openness, confidence, love for peace and friendliness on the global stage, and an effective way of learning from other militaries. These exercises are of great importance for, among others, promoting international military exchanges and cooperation, deepening strategic mutual trust among the participating countries, and boosting innovation and development of China's military training.
To be more specific, the considerations are based on in the following four aspects:
First, strengthen strategic coordination between Chinese and Russian militaries. The IAG is an important event initiated by the Russian Ministry of Defence with scientific and forward-looking concepts and designs, and we should take an active part in the event.
Second, promote international military exchanges and cooperation. By competing and exchanging with foreign militaries in international arenas, we can expand our "circle of friends" and build a new type of international relations centered on win-win cooperation.
Third, learn useful experience from foreign militaries. Hosting and participating in the IAG will help us pinpoint our position in the global coordinate system of military combat forces. In particular, it will enable us to perceive at a close range the strengths and advantages of militaries with real combat experience, such as Russian and Pakistan, and consequently identify where we lag behind.
Four, sharpen the national defense awareness in the whole society. The IAG features a large number of participants, strong confrontation and extensive media coverage, which is good for strengthening social recognition of the military.
Question: Reports show that the Russian Ministry of Defense is attaching more and more importance to the IAG and has kept stepping up its input and innovation. What are the new changes and features of this year's games?
Answer: According to the information we have, the games this year will have new changes and features in three aspects.
First, it will have greater influence. The number of competition-hosting countries increases from 7 last year to 10 this year, with Uzbekistan, Mongolia and India being the new entrants, and the number of teams has increased from 189 in 32 countries last year to 216 in 34 countries this year, with many other countries expressing their willingness to participate.
Second, it will be more open and inclusive. As the initiator of the Games, Russia expects more countries to participate in and host the competitions under unified rules, standards and procedures. For example, China hosts four competitions this year, second only to Russia, while eight other countries including Belarus and India will each host one to three competitions. Based on our analysis, the pattern of "Russia lead, more counties participate, most countries host" will become a normal practice in the future.
Third, it will include more competition items. When the IAG was first initiated, it had only a few items such as "Tank Biathlon" and "Aviadarts", but the number of items has kept rising to 28 last year and 32 this year, basically covering all services and domains of the Russian army, navy, air and space forces, and airborne troops. Russia, Belarus and Mongolia all add new competition items this year, and a winter item is included for the first time.
Question: According to information released so far, the competition items that the Chinese military hosts and takes part in this year have changed a lot compared with last year. Can you tell us more details about that?
Answer: The Chinese Army hosted and took part in four competition items in Korla, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region this year, namely, "Suvorov Attack" as Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) Crew Competition, "Clear Sky" as Man-Portable Air Defence Missile Teams Competition, "Safe Environment" as Nuclear Biological and Chemical (NBC) Reconnaissance Teams Competition, and "Gunsmith Master" as Weapon Repair Competition. The PLA Ground Force, Navy and Air Force will take part in 11 competitions in five foreign countries, and the Ground Force will also send observers to two competitions held overseas.
Compared with last year, the number of competitions we host this year remains unchanged, but we are participating in fewer competitions overseas mainly for two reasons.
First, we want to further concentrate the strength. This year our focus is on competitions of main combat arms and new combat forces, including tanks, armored vehicles, special operations, Marine Corps, airborne troops and aviation forces, as well as supportive forces competitions such as engineering, repair, communication and health services. Meanwhile, we will no longer participate in general items like combat medics relay, field cooking and loyal friends, or items in which we don't have corresponding equipment or that don't consist with our training, so as to make the competitions more targeted and pragmatic.
Second, we want to expand the scope of participating troops. To make full use of IAG as a learning and exchanging platform and temper more troops through the Games, we usually don't send troops that had participated before to take part in the same items or send the same participants to participate in the Games year after year.
This year, airmen from the PLA Navy and Air Force will participate in the "Aviadarts" as a joint team for the first time, and the Navy will take part in the "Deep Sea" diver competition for the first time too. Our purpose is to let more troops get on the international stage through the Games, temper them in the fierce competition with foreign counterparts, and broaden their global vision.
(The article was published on the PLA Daily on 19 July，2019. It is translated from Chinese into English and edited by China Military Online.）