11 March 2011

Implications of China’s Military Evacuation of Citizens from Libya

Gabriel B. Collins and Andrew S. Erickson, “Implications of China’s Military Evacuation of Citizens from Libya,” Jamestown China Brief 11.4 (10 March 2011): 8-10.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) made history with the news on February 25 that the frigate Xuzhou, one of the navy’s most modern warships, had been dispatched to waters near Libya to support and protect the evacuation of Chinese citizens. The Libya operation is the Chinese military’s first operational deployment to Africa and the Mediterranean, as well as its largest noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) to date, with virtually all 35,000 PRC citizens in the country evacuated as of March 3. The bulk of Chinese nationals in Libya were evacuated by sea on chartered merchant vessels (primarily from Benghazi), in addition to chartered aircraft (primarily from Tripoli), military aircraft (Sabha to Khartoum, Sudan), and overland (buses to Tunisia and Egypt). A significant number of individuals are still traveling back to China via international transit hubs, but none are vulnerable to the growing violence in Libya. The deployment of Xuzhou sets a major precedent because it marked the first time China has sent military assets to a distant part of the world to protect its citizens there. This is an historical first for China, and represents Beijing’s growing capability to conduct long-range operations that it was both incapable of doing, and unwilling to do, only a decade ago. …