As The Diplomat previously reported, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy spearheaded the evacuation of both Chinese citizens and foreign nationals from Yemen over the past week. On March 29 and 30, the Weifang, a PLAN frigate, and the Weishanhu supply vessel evacuated 571 Chinese citizens from Yemen; on April 2, another frigate, the Linyi, carried 225 foreign nationals from ten different countries (mostly Pakistan) from Yemen’s Aden pot to Djibouti.
As I wrote earlier, it’s rare for China to use its military to assist in evacuation operations halfway around the world. It’s even rarer for China’s military to assist foreign citizens in the same way. In a press conference last week, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted that the operation was “a special action” wherein China “evacuate[d] foreign nationals stuck in dangerous zones for the first time.” According to Hua, the evacuation embodied the principles of “internationalism and humanitarianism held by the Chinese government.”
A Xinhua commentary expanded more on that last point, turning the Yemen operation into an argument in favor of China’s increasingly global military presence. “The humanitarian nature of Chinese armed forces’ overseas missions indicated that China is willing to help when it is able and ready,” the piece said. “With an able and helpful China, the world will have more resources to maneuver through disasters and crisis.”