By depicting a flotilla of three Chinese navy ships as a Spanish Armada, a number of Western media outlets and intelligence agencies have left no stone unturned in selling wolf tickets to their audiences. Once again they are hyping their "China Threat" cliche across Europe.
The Chinese flotilla, on its way last week to a joint exercise with the Russian navy, was shadowed by warships from a number of NATO countries. It was subsequently reported by media in the west, which self-righteously portrayed it as evidence pointing to "the rise of military" China.
However, promoting such selling points in this "wolf ticket" fashion does not enhance their moral high-ground, as they forget, if not deliberately, four basic things.
For one thing, freedom to navigate is a right claimed but often misused by Western powers. If Western navy ships sail into the South China Sea, as they do, and conduct disguised "freedom of navigation", like what the United States has done for numerous times there, why should Chinese ships, who act perfectly in accordance with international norms, be strangers to European waters?
Also, the ongoing maneuver is neither saber-rattling, nor aggressive, as it targets no third party. Easily dwarfed by the quantity and quality of the much larger NATO fleet in the area, the small group of Chinese ships is much more a benign visitor than a menacing intruder.
Thirdly, since China is increasingly an active contributor to international peace-keeping in various ways, holding maritime drills with partners is a requisite for future operations.
"Exercises are important tools through which the Alliance tests and validates its concepts, procedures, systems and tactics. More broadly, they enable military and civilian organizations deployed in theaters of operation to test capabilities and practice working together efficiently in a demanding crisis situation."
Those words come from the NATO website, stating very clearly the alliance's view that holding an exercise is an inborn and indispensable right. They surely deliver a thick ear to those trying to offer China the short end of the stick on the issue.
Last but not least, western media outlets apply a double-standard in reporting China's joint military maneuvers with other countries. While China's exercises with western countries, such as the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific Exercise, are welcomed, the Sino-Russian drills are viewed disapprovingly.
Behind the recent misguided reports lies a Cold War mentality still haunting the West. As the Baltic Sea has many times been a watery battlefield for Western powers, the location of the China-Russia exercise serves as a perfect reminder to the West -- misreading the strategies of others can be both dangerous and costly. It is surely time for hotheads in the West to simmer down and take a chill pill on the China-Russia maneuvers, to recognize them for what they are -- a routine exercise similar to the many carried out by navies from across the world.