Chinese fleet brings out the crowds in visit to Britain

Updated: 2015-01-16 00:34

By Wang Mingjie(

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Chinese fleet brings out the crowds in visit to Britain

Ambassador Liu Xiaoming (center) joins naval officers, Rear Admiral Zhang Chuanshu (left) and Vice Admiral Philip Jones at the deck reception. [Photo by Wang Mingjie/]

The largest Chinese Navy fleet to visit Britain was given a rapturous welcome from locals, including hundreds of Chinese origin, as it began a five-day official visit at Royal Naval Base in Portsmouth on Jan 12.

The 18th escort task force of the Chinese Navy fleet comprises three ships: the amphibious dock landing ship Chang Bai Shan, the guided missile frigate Yuncheng and the supply ship Chaohu. In addition, there are three helicopters, and the crews consist of nearly 100 special operations members and more than 800 officers and sailors.

The three ships have just fulfilled a four-month-long counterpiracy escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

Britain is the first stop on a five-country tour, to be followed by Germany, the Netherlands, France and Greece. The visit to Britain is the first by Chinese Navy ships in seven years and the third one in history.

Describing the fleet as the largest to visit Britain, Liu Xiaoming, Chinese Ambassador to the country, said the visit "gives a flavor of the partnership between China and the UK. It is also good for the British public to understand the Chinese military and what it is able to do."

During the five-day visit, senior officers from both navies were expected to discuss a series of maritime topics including recent counterpiracy operations in the Indian Ocean.

"It has been seven years since our last visit," Liu said. "The world has changed and so has the reach of the Chinese Navy. So we have a lot to talk about. There is a lot for the two navies to share. And this visit will go a long way to strengthening our relationship."

Rear Admiral Zhang Chuanshu, commander of the task force said: "Our visit to the UK is a good opportunity to enhance our understanding of each other. It's a great opportunity for our sailors to get exposure to local people and our counterparts in the Royal Navy."

Commodore Jeremy Rigby, Naval Base Commander, extended a warm welcome to his Chinese visitors to the operational home of the Royal Navy, and acknowledged the significance of such military exchanges.

"As with our ship visits abroad, these events are not only of great diplomatic significance, but also very useful militarily given that we share similar global challenges including counterpiracy, preventing conflict, protecting our citizens overseas and supporting UN peacekeeping efforts.

"China, like us, relies on trade at sea for its prosperity, and we work together around the world. The visit to Portsmouth is a really good way for us to talk, navy to navy, with like-minded sailors, sharing information on our operations."

The Chang Bai Shan and the Yuncheng were to be open to the public for three days from Jan 13, and Liu said he hoped the British public, especially younger people, would have the opportunity to visit the ships.

The Chinese Navy has carried out 48 missions in the Gulf region since December 2008.

"Thanks in part to the efforts of the Chinese Navy ships, piracy in those waters is being effectively curbed and maritime security along that route is being safeguarded," Liu said.

Vice Admiral Sir Philip Andrew Jones commended the task forces' operations in the Gulf of Aden, saying: "The Royal Navy and your navy are working to a common purpose here, and I look forward with excitement to future opportunities we will have to collaborate on in similar missions. This is why these visits you make are so important as they help us to understand each other better."

China Military Online says that since late 2008 the Chinese Navy has dispatched 18 task forces to execute escort missions on a regular and continuing basis. They have safely escorted 6,000 Chinese and foreign ships, and successfully rescued, protected and helped more than 60 Chinese and foreign ships.

The navy has also conducted other missions, including searching for the Malaysian Airlines flight 370 that went missing last March and helping the Philippines and Indonesia with disaster relief.

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