Real value of visit was the sharing of information

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As three Chinese naval ships headed out of Portsmouth Harbour after a week-long visit, naval chiefs could reflect on what has been an extremely useful exercise.

For this was about much more than the pomp and ceremony of welcoming a foreign task group to the operational home of the Royal Navy.

Yes, the formal visit of assault ship Chang Bai Shan, frigate Yun Cheng and replenishment ship Chaohu was diplomatically significant.

Their crews were the first Chinese sailors to call in to the city in more than seven years and the presence of Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming and hundreds of flag-waving UK-based Chinese people certainly showed how much it meant.

But the real value of the visit was in the sharing of military information between senior officers and in continuing to build a relationship between our two countries’ navies.

As naval base commander Commodore Jeremy Rigby said: ‘These events are not only of great diplomatic significance, but also very useful militarily given that we share similar global challenges including counter-piracy, preventing conflict, protecting our citizens overseas and supporting UN peacekeeping efforts.’

As we work together, so we can learn from each other about how we operate.

This requires a degree of openness that was demonstrated when the Chinese visitors were shown around the Royal Navy’s newest warship, Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan.

It’s a mutually beneficial process, but it can only work if both parties are open about exchanging information.

So we are pleased this has been recognised and that the visit seems to have strengthened a developing relationship between the two countries and their respective navies.

Because the next time they are called upon to work together, perhaps on protection duties in the Gulf region, there will be a greater understanding that can only help.

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