Is Chinese Joint Training With Saudi Arabia A Cause for Concern?

China and Saudi Arabia will be holding joint exercises that center around naval maneuvers and hostage rescue. The Blue Sword drills sound scary, but they aren’t necessarily cause for concern.

Many nations hold joint training. We live in an increasingly connected world. The United States jointly trains with its partners all the time, and we scoff at concerns about those drills when they come from countries like Russia. In this case, the two countries are practicing hostage rescues that would probably occur in piracy situations.

Anti-piracy actions are an important job of responsible state actors. They often involve saving ships from a variety of nations (hence the need for joint drills.) The transport of oil, from Saudi Arabia, near the Malacca Straits not far from the China Sea are a particularly strong nest of piracy that apply to both powers.

During my time in the military I participated in a joint drill with a foreign nation. It was between the United States Marine Corps and the Moroccan military. Our drills were extremely simplistic and tame. We had some awkward free time to talk with them. Then we all got in a straight line and did a single live fire exercise — and my rifle jammed so I didn’t even get to do that.

So you can see that while the headlines might have sounded scary if the news highlighted how close we were to terrorist hot spots in North Africa, or bad actors in the Middle the East. But it was so mundane I spent most of the time annoyed I was missing college classes for this.

That being said, there is some concern over this procedure. The Russian forces that invaded Ukraine first started mobilizing under the guise of Russian drills. China has a stated goal of supplanting the United States as the world leader. And they don’t have a robust track record of anti-piracy operations. They spend most of their time drilling around Taiwan. So it is fully possible that this is sinister.

But it seems more likely that it is fairly benign, and the training is rote.

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