Russia has used the “Z” symbolism on its tanks and military vehicles. But, as our Editor-in-Chief Sean Spoonts pointed out, these markings have different meanings and allow Russian forces to recognize each other on the battlefield.

The Letter “Z” represents the Eastern Military District and also covers other interpretations like “Za pobedy,” which means “for victory,” or “Zapad,” which means “West.” Another purported meaning for the “Z” mark is “Zorro Squad” or “Zelensky,” showing opposition to the Ukrainian president.

Still, there is no confirmation of the definitive, unifying meaning for Z. But, the big question now is why is a Chinese military vehicle featuring the “Z” mark?

Dongfeng EQ2050
Dongfeng EQ2050 photographed in Beijing, China. (Source: Navigator84/Wikimedia)

Last week, Chinese social media showed a snapshot of a viral military vehicle with the letter “Z.” Though it’s not the hand-written “Z” mark we’ve seen in the Russian military, it’s still interesting to learn why this marking is now on Chinese vehicles.

The vehicle in question is China’s very own Dongfeng EQ2050, which is basically a copycat of the American HMMWV—locally known as Mengshi; the Chinese army constantly uses this vehicle for regular military transportation. The 4×4 EQ2050 follows the form and function of the American HUMVEE, with highlights on its wide-body design.

The front of the vehicle has a dominant grille with recessed headlamps. It has hinged doors for the passengers and a rear section that can be rearranged as a flatbed for overnight missions.

The EQ2050 is used for various purposes in the Chinese military, including anti-aircraft transportation, armored car support for the troops, and an anti-tank/anti-armor base model for protecting soldiers from enemy attacks at range. This vehicle is also used for reconnaissance, especially for highly sensitive scout missions on rough terrain locations. The EQ2050 can also be custom-fitted to carry ammunition, including the 12.7 mm machine gun, 35 mm automatic grenade launcher, and other weapons.

Though this vehicle has been speculated as a private property, supposedly registered in Liaoning, Northeast China, its symbolism could still spark discussions on China’s intentions to back Russia in their Ukrainian invasion.

The civilian version of the features a new petrol engine instead of the diesel one. But, the layout for the civilian version shows a shorter vehicle and doesn’t include rectangular, edged storage at the back.

The images circulated on social media still closely resemble the military outfit for the EQ2050, which still gives us the possibility that this is a military-used vehicle, with civilian features.


The Dongfeng EQ2050 Civilian Version


US-China-Russia, the Awkward Encounter

As China continues to parade its forces all around Taiwan, a meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit happened on Friday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with the foreign ministers of China and Russia.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov were seated at the summit when Blinken arrived, and Associated Press reported that the encounter was extremely “awkward.” Chinese and Russian dignitaries arrived earlier, and both were seen as cordial with each other. Wang was even seen patting Lavrov’s shoulder, sending him a wave before sitting down. But, when Blinken arrived, there was absolutely no eye contact.

The room fell silent, and Blinken chose a seat “about half-a-dozen chairs away.”

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“There was contact with everyone who was not hiding. Sergey Viktorovich’s buttons are all intact, as well as zipper,” AP reported. Whatever that means.

China’s still aloof from conversations aligning with the US and other nations’ intentions to impose stricter sanctions on Russia. There’s also the conversation around basketball player Brittney Grinner, convicted of drug possession and sentenced to nine years in prison by the Russian court.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the European Commission in Brussels 25 Mar 2021 (Source: European Commission/Wikimedia)

Blinken released a statement saying he had no plans of meeting with either Wang or Lavrov during the summit.

As of writing, China has not released any statement saying they will support any sanctions against Russia. In fact, Russian-Chinese trade has risen to 29% between January and July this year. Overall, the trade has amounted to $97.71 billion with no signs of slowing down.

China’s exports to Russia increased to about 5.2% ($36.27 billion), while China’s imports from Russia also grew to 48.8% compared to last year. Russian exports to China amounted to $61.44 billion during the first seven months of the year.

“It is expected that the foreign trade between China and Russia this year would surpass the level of 2021 when the bilateral trade stood at $146.87 billion, a record high,” according to Song Kui, president of the Contemporary China-Russia Regional Economy Research Institute.

Both countries are reportedly looking to expand their cooperation around the energy, food, and agriculture sectors.

“The pursuing of local currency settlements in trade between China and Russia also provides more convenience for traders between the two countries to stabilize foreign trade and avoid US dollar hegemony,” Song said.

So, with big money in play, is the “Z” mark on a Chinese vehicle a coincidence or a blatant statement?