Despite some wild speculation, China's upcoming joint military exercise with Russia and Mongolia is nothing untoward.
It has become a routine practice for China and Russia to hold smaller scale military exercises, and the two neighbors have also regularly participated in and led multilateral drills under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in recent years.
The planned drills scheduled for Sept 11-15 are simply on a larger scale than usual. Codenamed Vostok-2018, or East-2018, the exercise will reportedly involve almost 300,000 troops and more than 1,000 military aircraft, with China sending about 3,200 troops, more than 900 pieces of military hardware and a combined total of 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
Thanks to efforts from both sides, Beijing and Moscow have made much headway in forging a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, and military-to-military exchanges have played their part in strengthening mutual trust. In fact, bilateral ties are in excellent shape at present, meaning it is only natural that the two neighbors should choose to strengthen their military-to-military ties, as these are a barometer of the bilateral relationship.
China and Russia are two important forces in maintaining peace and stability in the region and beyond. Closer and smoother coordination between their military forces will put them in a better position to respond to potential threats and even a crisis in the region, which is unsettled because of territorial disputes and the tensions relating to the Korean Peninsula.
On China's part, as it is increasingly an active contributor to international peacekeeping efforts, joint military exercises also help improve its military personnel's combat capabilities and cooperative skills with counterparts in foreign military forces.
The suspicions and concerns surrounding the upcoming Russia-China-Mongolia military exercise stem from the Cold War mentality in the West and display a double standard: The frequent war games conducted by the United States and its allies around the world are well received and even lauded as a show of solidarity, while those that China and non-Western countries participate in are viewed with suspicion.
One element to the exercise that has been remarked upon is the inclusion of simulated nuclear weapons attacks, with the rationale for this being flipped, to make it seem a threat rather than a response to such an attack.
History shows misjudgment of other countries' strategies can be both dangerous and costly, so the West should not view such exercises through a distorted prism.