Peacekeepers returned from Mali run drills in snowstorm
A pot is smashed to pieces by a soldier. Photo: Li Hao/GT
At midday on October 26 at the headquarters of the Shenyang Military Area Command in Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, the first snow of the winter, famously bitter in this part of China, started to fall amid a biting wind.
Soon, the grasslands were blanketed by a layer of crisp snow. Breaking the peace of this scene, over 100 soldiers from a motorized infantry brigade began running drills on a variety of combat skills, including hand to hand combat, rifle tactics, firing machine guns from speeding armored cars and crowd control.
These soldiers had just returned to icy Harbin after serving on a UN peacekeeping mission in the baking deserts of northern Mali, West Africa.
A 170-strong contingent was established and started intense training in July 2013 after the UN requested China send personnel to aid its mission in the war-torn country. This was the first time that the country sent troops on a UN peacekeeping mission; previously China had only sent non-combat personnel on these missions, to help with logistics, medical care and policing.
"All the training and exercises turned out to be essential and effective," said Zhang Geqiang, the contingent's commander. The 170-strong force, which was tasked with providing security for the eastern headquarters of the UN peacekeeping mission in Gao, was respected for its discipline and excellent performance.
China, the largest source of peacekeeping personnel among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, currently has 2,027 soldiers stationed abroad providing assistance to nine peacekeeping operations - including 558 stationed in Liberia, 395 in Mali and 338 in South Sudan.
A soldier crawls under flames. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Soldiers fire machine guns from speeding armored cars. Photo: Li Hao/GT
A "rioter" is bundled toward an armored car during a crowd control drill. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Troops practice scaling buildings. Photo: Li Hao/GT