The Chinese hospital ship Ark Peace docked at Broadway Pier. Photo by Leonard Novarro
The Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark docked at Broadway Pier. Photo by Leonard Novarro

By Leonard Novarro

As China continues to pour billions into a massive military buildup, another phase of domestic policy sailed into San Diego Bay this week with hardly a ripple.

The hospital ship Peace Ark, docked at the Broadway Pier, will be here until Saturday, when it leaves for Mexico waters as part of an around-the-Pacific mission emphasizing harmony and good will.

While here, the ship is open to the public for touring. At the same time, many of the 100 medical personnel will be visiting medical facilities in San Diego, including the Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park.

The ship and its crew of 400, commanded by Capt. Guan Bailin, left Zhoushan, in Zhejiang Province, Sept. 7, touching port in Australia and French Polynesia before heading for the United States. The ship will continue along the coasts of Central and South America, and the west coast of Africa before heading back across the Pacific to Malaysia to take part in a joint exercise dubbed “Peace and Friendship 2015.”

Along the way, the crew will carry out free medical assistance and participate in medical exchanges. The crew will be at sea for another four months.

Earlier in the week, one of the ship’s medical personnel, Dr. Yun Huang, played host to 25 visitors, many of them San Diego State University students with the Confucius Institute. The local group was led by Dr. Lilly Cheng, the institute’s director.

The guests toured state of the art medical facilities on board, including a triage area, operating room, lab, X-ray facilities and even a dental office.

This was the Peace Ark’s first visit to San Diego, although the Chinese navy has visited San Diego twice before. Dr. Huang called it “a good will mission.”

While docked here, ship personnel will be guests of the U.S. Navy during a special reception at the Admiral Kidd Center in Point Loma. The Chinese will hold a reception for their American counterparts aboard the Ark.

Leonard Novarro is a journalist and co-founder of Asia Media America and the Asian Heritage Society in San Diego.