China’s People’s Liberation Army surrounded Sydney Harbour recently, not for war, but to foster cooperation between them and the Australian armed forces.
For the second time ever in history, the Australian army played host for its Chinese counterparts for team building in Australia, with the training exercise named PANDAROO.
On a cool, grey, overcast day, teams of soldiers, from Australia and China, paddled 60km down the New South Wales coast on kayaks to enter the Sydney Harbour. The weather didn’t change anything, however, as soldiers were still expected to capsize themselves into the cold Australian waters, and then cooperate in order to get themselves upright again, despite the language barrier.
Commander of the 6th Brigade, Australian Army; Brigadier Susan Doyle says that trust is the basis of militaries all around the world, built on friendships gained from such activities like adventure training for team building in Australia, and in other places. She says that the they will make friends for like, as she believes is the case with friendships born through adversity.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Ou Feng described their Aussie counterparts as brave and hardworking, saying that they teach her and the other Chinese soldiers climbing, as well as kayaking, and that the Aussie soldiers were professional and responsible throughout it all.
Operation Panderoo started in Canberra earlier in September, with a traditional welcome in Canberra, before the soldiers headed over to the Blue Mountains, for a series of rock climbs. The exercise programme places focus on basic training rather than military training, in contrast to the war games of Exercise Kakadu, which took place earlier in September in Darwin.
All these exercises for team building in Australia follows both governments’ attempts to rebuild diplomatic relations following a period of tension, with the AU’s Defence Minister Marise Payne meeting the top Chinese top diplomat on the sidelines of the United Nations meeting on the 25th of September.
Chinese media were reportedly watching Exercise Pandaroo closely, with George Yang, Chief Correspondent for Australia for HK’s Phoenix TV, saying that China-Australia relations are currently quite bumpy, which is why the Chinese media were watching the exercises.
Exercise Panderoo ended at the last week of September 2018.