01 March 2011

Xinhua: “Chinese Navy Frigate Arrives Waters off Libya for Escort Mission”

Chinese Navy Frigate Arrives Waters off Libya for Escort Mission,” Xinhua, 1 March 2011.

Updated: 2011-03-01 20:00:00

BEIJING, March 1 (Xinhua) — A Chinese navy frigate has already reached mission waters off Libya on Tuesday to offer support and protection for ships evacuating Chinese nationals.

The frigate, Xuzhou, met with a Greek merchant vessel chartered by the Chinese government carrying evacuees, and started its escort mission.

The frigate was previously on an escort mission in the Aden Gulf, where shipping is vulnerable to attacks from pirates.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, China has altogether pulled out about 32,000 nationals from Libya as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Among the evacuees, 9,000 were back in China, roughly 21,000 were in a third country, while 2,100 were on their way to a third country.


As for the larger significance of Xuzhou’s deployment, I think three issues are most important:

a)    This is an historical first for China, and represents the ability to do something that Beijing was both incapable of doing, and unwilling to do, only a decade ago.

b)    The deployment sends a powerful message that transcends the limited operational capabilities of a single vessel: violence against Chinese citizens will not be taken lightly, Beijing is willing and able to act, and—in a worst case scenario—could deploy further national/military assets as necessary.

c)    Like the Gulf of Aden counter-piracy task forces, this offers PLA(N) forces a valuable training opportunity, so that they will be even more experienced and capable in the future.

For details on the air component of military support for China’s evacuation operations, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “The PLA Air Force’s First Overseas Operational Deployment: Analysis of China’s decision to deploy IL-76 transport aircraft to Libya,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 27 (1 March 2011).

For more details on Beijing’s dispatching of the frigate Xuzhou to escort ships transporting Chinese citizens from Libya, see:

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “Missile Frigate Xuzhou Transits Suez Canal, to Arrive off Libya ~Wednesday 2 March: China’s first operational deployment to Mediterranean addresses Libya’s evolving security situation,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 26 (27 February 2011).

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “China Dispatches Warship to Protect Libya Evacuation Mission: Marks the PRC’s first use of frontline military assets to protect an evacuation mission,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 25 (24 February 2011).

For analysis of Beijing’s interests in Libya and the surrounding region, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “Libya Looming: Key strategic implications for China of unrest in the Arab World and Iran,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 24 (22 February 2011).

For early projections regarding Chinese efforts to protect citizens overseas, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “Looking After China’s Own: Pressure to Protect PRC Citizens Working Overseas Likely to Rise,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国),  No. 2 (17 August 2010).