16 September 2011

PLAN Hospital Ship “Peace Ark” (“和平方舟”号医院船) Embarks on 3-Month Navy Medical Service Mission in Caribbean

China’s first purpose-built hospital ship, the 10,000-ton Type 920 Daishandao (岱山岛号)-class Peace Ark (和平方舟/AHH 866), has left on a three-month voyage. It will call on ports in Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Costa Rica as part of “Harmonious Mission -2011” (和谐使命—2011). This is China’s first operational naval mission to the Caribbean, and an interesting new use of its increasing naval “soft power.” 

In summer 2010, Peace Ark treated over 15,500 people in Indian Ocean and African nations. This is part of a larger pattern in which China’s navy has projected power increasingly beyond the “Near Seas” (Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea) in the form of peacetime deployments that do not involve high-intensity military capabilities. Other examples include the deployment of:

  • a frigate and military transport aircraft to safeguard the evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya in February-March 2011
  • nine (and counting) counter-piracy task forces to deter pirates in the Gulf of Aden since December 2008

These developments suggest increasing capabilities for the PLAN to further common security objectives, a trend that should be welcomed. In the unfortunate event of a U.S.-China conflict, maritime forces would be the most likely to be used against each other; yet they are also the most likely to encounter each other and work together in peacetime. The two nations’ navies and other maritime services have the opportunity, even the duty, to do what other services have not: establish a new and cooperative relationship. Given the unique nature of sea-based presence, port visits, diplomacy, and critical trade relations, maritime forces interact in peacetime differently from other services. For the U.S. and Chinese maritime forces, this generates many compatible and overlapping strategic priorities. Indeed, when seaborne bilateral trade is considered, the two nations already have a major maritime partnership, albeit one in which the military element lags far behind the commercial. Improved confidence and trust can most realistically be achieved piecemeal, in specific functional and geographic areas, with the best approach to direct efforts “from easier to harder,” “from non-traditional to traditional,” and “from further from China to nearer to China.”

誓师动员 中国海军万吨医院船将首次赴古巴等加勒比海国家访问


2011年09月16日 07:46:42  来源: 中国军网


For background on Peace Ark and its first mission overseas, see “Chinese Hospital Ship ‘Peace Ark’ Sets Sail for Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Africa to Provide Medical Assistance, Exchange.”

For the first public report that Peace Ark would be deployed to the Middle East and Africa in 2010, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “Oversea Trumps Overland: China’s Oil Supply Future is Maritime,” China Signpost 洞察中国™, No. 1 (26 May 2010).

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

Gabe 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.

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 China’s ongoing counter-piracy deployment in the Gulf of Aden, see Andrew S. Erickson, “Chinese Sea Power in Action: the Counter-Piracy Mission in the Gulf of Aden and Beyond,” in Roy Kamphausen, David Lai, and Andrew Scobell, eds., The PLA at Home and Abroad: Assessing the Operational Capabilities of China’s Military (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College and National Bureau of Asian Research, July 2010), 295-376.

For analysis and policy recommendations from American and Chinese experts concerning potential areas for Sino-American martime cooperation, see Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Nan Li, eds., China, the United States, and 21st Century Sea Power: Defining a Maritime Security Partnership (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010).