China’s major annual military diplomacy event commenced on Sunday, October 29, despite the absence of its defense minister, who traditionally hosts the occasion. The Beijing Xiangshan Forum serves as a platform for China to advocate President Xi Jinping’s vision for a safer world and strengthen ties with developing nations.
This year, China faces heightened coordination between the United States and its allies, aiming to curb its military ambitions. Notably, the forum spotlights Russia, with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu being the first guest speaker at the opening ceremony on Monday.
In the absence of a defense minister, Chinese military leaders senior to the minister have taken on diplomatic responsibilities. Despite concerns from the West, the forum has attracted significant participation, including 22 defense ministers and 14 military chiefs, marking the highest attendance since its inception in 2006. China is particularly emphasizing engagement with countries from the Global South, urging them to reject bloc confrontation and a “Cold War mentality,” criticisms frequently directed at the West by Beijing.
While some Western nations have opted for limited participation, viewing the forum cautiously, others see it as a rare opportunity to establish trust with senior Chinese defense officials and military leaders, valuable in times of crisis. Notably, certain European countries, including France, plan to send small delegations from their defense ministries, and NATO’s delegation will be led by Wendin Smith, its security policy director.