In what seems to be an alarming message to Washington, China announced its plan to hold a joint military exercise with the UAE this August.
This week on Thursday, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced in a statement that the country is going to join the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in holding their first-ever joint fighter jet drill in China later this month.
The Ministry announced that the joint drill, known as “Falcon Shield 2023” will be held in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in August based on a previous agreement with the UAE’s air forces.
“The move aims to deepen practical exchange and cooperation between the two countries’ militaries and boost understanding and mutual trust,” the Chinese Defense Ministry said in the statement, adding that “the first China-UAE joint air force exercise is a good start to enhance military exchanges and cooperation with countries in the Middle East”.
This signals the beginning of a new phase of cooperation between China as a world power, and the UAE as an oil-rich state in the Persian Gulf, a region that has been traditionally the area of US influence.
China announced in February that it had signed a contract to export its domestically developed L-15 training fighter jets to the UAE. At that time, the UAE Ministry of Defense said it plans to purchase 12 L-15s and may purchase an additional 36 of the same type in the future. The L-15, or a supersonic fourth-generation fighter, is also known as the JL-10. The UAE has been traditionally pro-Washington since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1971, and since then, US troops have been stationed in the Persian Gulf country.
China’s power projection, a message for US and others
The news of the coming-soon military drill between China and the UAE is in fact another attempt by Beijing to drive a wedge between the United States and Middle Eastern nations following the epoch-making China-brokered Saudi-Iran deal in March.
Back then, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to restore their relations after seven years of political tensions when the foreign ministers of both countries met for the first time since 2015. But the meetings that led to the dramatic breakthrough were not held in the Middle East. They were hosted and mediated by China and the meeting was held in Beijing, after years of unsuccessful attempts by Oman and Iraq to normalize ties between Riyadh and Tehran.
The new announcement by Chiann’s Defense Ministry on a joint military drill with the UAE this week is therefore an alarming message for Wahington that it is losing its influence in the Persian Gulf and among wealthy Arab states and China is taking its place quite evidently.
China’s new phase of alliance with Arab states in the military arena is a show of power projection that is not addressing only the United States.
The move is also a countermeasure against Japan since it has been expanding its roster of partners for joint fighter drills in the Sea of China, which Beijing sees as a threat to its national security.
To read between the lines, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has, in recent years, been strengthening cooperation with other pro-Western countries, The JASDF conducted its first joint fighter training with the German Air Force in September 2022, with the Indian Air Force in January this year, and with the French Air and Space Force in July. In addition, Japan and Italy are working with the United Kingdom on the joint development of a next-generation fighter, not very good news for China.