Sharing steak and steamed bread with their Chinese counterparts, Australian army officers were feeling comfortable in the People's Liberation Army mess.
"We have shared a lot in common although China and Australia are different in political systems and cultural background," Frank X. Robert, commander of the Training Command of the Australian Army, said Monday in Beijing. Robert is heading a delegation to visit China.
As a component of their tour, the delegation members, including senior officers from the infantry, artillery and armored sectors, Monday visited the sixth armored division of the Beijing Military Area Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
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• After attending a welcome ceremony and hearing a brief introduction from Division Commander Yuan Zhongwei, the guests visited the simulation-training center.
• They saw firing practice on fixed and mobile targets, and quick response testing.
"The simulation equipment is very similar to that in Australia, but our armed forces have more opportunities to train in the field," said Paddy Devine, commanding officer and chief instructor of the Australian School of Armor.
He also expressed appreciation for the simulation equipment, which was made in China.
The first Chinese armored force was established in 1945, when China had tanks, but no armored cars.
• The Australian visitors also visited a tank company, where the 88-B tank and 86 infantry-fighting car attracted their attention. Robert climbed up on an 88-B to check its inside structure. Many officers took photos with the tanks.
• Visiting an exhibition on the history of the division, Devine was surprised to learn that one company had the same origin as the Australian armored forces -- the cavalry. The Australian armored troops still wear a hat with an ostrich feather to commemorate the days on horseback.
• The guests will also visit other military institutes and meet Kui Fulin, deputy chief of PLA General Staff.
Australian Defense Attache Russell Smith said that the PLA was more open than before, and exchanges between forces, an important component of military diplomacy, had increased in recent years to further promote military relations between Australia and China.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between China and Australia. Australian Prime Minister John Howard will start a visit to China tomorrow. Howard is expected to meet with Chinese leaders on security amongst other issues.
(People's Daily May 21, 2002)