Chinese Hospital Ship “Peace Ark” Sets Sail For Africa

China’s 10,000 ton hospital ship “Peace Ark” left Zhoushan Port today en route to the Gulf of Aden on its first overseas medical mission, according to a Chinese government announcement. It says the ship carries 428 “soldiers, officers and medical workers.” During its 87-day mission the ship’s medical staff will provide treatment to people in Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles and Bangladesh.

The Chinese are adept (and becoming more so) at the use of soft power in all its forms, not just economic, as this deployment makes clear. Taking a page from the U.S. Navy playbook, the hospital ship will become a major tool in China’s soft power exploits.

The Peace Ark’s deployment should be seen in the same light as China’s PLA Navy participating in anti-piracy patrols: maximizing the strategic and messaging value of the limited number of ships it’s able to maintain on long patrols. Undoubtedly, a major public relations campaign will follow the hospital ship’s various port calls.

Very few world navies have purpose built hospital ships and it’s rather significant that the Chinese built such a large one. That they did goes to the drivers behind China’s naval expansion. The Peace Ark is another signal that the PLA Navy is moving beyond the defending territorial claims imperative into more far ranging economic interests.

China must secure raw materials to supply its voracious economic growth, Africa is a source of many of those resources, hence the peace Ark goes to Africa. China must also worry about the safety and health of its overseas workers, thousands of which are working across the African continent.

— Greg Grant

17 Comments on "Chinese Hospital Ship “Peace Ark” Sets Sail For Africa"

  1. The diff between what the USA does and CH does is that when the US send there hospital ship to hati for example its to help not secure favors unlike the chin who it clearly states are using it to win influence.

    Ahhh don't trust them I tell ya!

  2. It'd be 'unfortunate' if that thing runs into an iceberg or a stray North Korean torpedo… just saying.

  3. Interesting ship design, it looks like they took an older model cruise ship and converted it a hospital ship.

  4. It's not like we don't get something for helping Hati. The last thing the US wants is another Hatian exodus to the US that the US taxpayer has to pick up the bill for, so anything that keeps them out of rafts is good for us (And Florida! Oh the virtues of being a swing state! People pay attention to you!). We aren't paragons of virtue and they aren't evil monsters.

    Maybe the US would make more of an effort for soft power if a defense contractor could figure out how to make a few hundred billion off of selling the US a simple cruise ship hull filled with standard hospital gear.

  5. Africa… the most raped continent on earth.

  6. Why not convert a carrier bound for the junkyard into a hospital ship with helicopter transport? In major conflict it can serve.

    Gates and Clinton should team up with the DOD.

    I once suggested that Israel do such soft power work for good relations. Even Iran is planning a hospital ship show. Unfortunately I think its bound for a Gaza encounter with the IDF.

  7. China might be a future strategic rival, but deploying medical help to people that are suffering is a good thing, no matter who's doing it.

    I'd actually like to see some collaboration between theirs and our medical ships. It would be a good, non military way to share cultures, and hopefully lower the mutual suspicion. And even if those benefits don't come from it, there really isn't any downside either.

  8. I think the defense is covered by the part where it says there are soldiers aboard.

    This I see no problem with, if anyone does their crazy, although I wouldn't blame some people if they refused medical treatment aboard a Chinese Hospital ship. I have heard that Chinese medicine has a high(ish?) post-surgical infection rate.

  9. Seriously, when will Americans stop being soo naive. It's been a common patter in the World's history since the beginning that major government actions where always performed seeking some sort of gain. How they are broadcasted to the people is a different thing called propaganda (and no, it's not a communist term, democracies perfected it a lot more than the reds…)

  10. Good PR move, even if they do get in the way of trying to reform some of the crummy governments that keep the health situation in Africa God awful.

  11. How clueless, Haiti is a US client state.

  12. I really like the Cross painted on the side.

    Fun Fact –> China is fast becoming a Christian nation.

    This is GOOS NEWS.

  13. Good Morning Folks,

    The effective use of soft power projection is the area that future militaries are perhaps the most concerned about. The concern of China as a future enemy with in this century is now mostly confined to those in the military who have a personal interest in promoting this line of lobbying and propaganda (re: economic or political) and the rather large but still a minority group that has an active imaginations and see bad guys everywhere. The vast majority have never served a day in the military but feel themselves experts none the less.

    Concerns like providing health care to underdeveloped countries such as the PRC is doing here, developing higher concentrated liquid fertilizers that are also environmentally friendly and are harder to weaponize, cereal seeds that mature into crops faster, thus providing more then a single crop a year in higher latitudes, inexpensive mechanized farm equipment that can be maintained but local mechanics etc. These are the issue that are being kicked around by the men/women who have done rotations into the war zone and are expecting to go back.

    I would think that the guiding principle here is that hungry people are more willing to listen to the terrorists message then those that have enough to eat and perhaps some surplus to feed their neighbors also. The PRC has seen that people who enjoy good health, are also productive people who can earn an income so they can buy Chinese consumer goods. That's soft-power for profit.

    We are at war and that should be the priority of military though at the moment, not promoting big ticket generational defense contracts for platforms and systems that will never be used as intended.


    Byron Skinner

  14. wow man this ship is big, so kool to know that people in the world r doing great things likw what the doctors and their team is doing, helping the sick

  15. Doesn't matter, China will get what it wants

  16. Brenda Maximin Khan | November 12, 2011 at 4:36 am | Reply

    This vessel docked in my homeland POS Trinidad WI and so many people received free medical attention and i take this oppertunity to thank the crew and staff on board the vessel Peace Arc for their valuable contributions that aided in assisting so many in my country.

  17. This is my first time visit at here and i am really impressed to read all at alone

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