Sometimes the best way of getting to know any nation - and building trust with it - is to work closely with its people. That is one reason militaries hold joint exercises with allies and even adversaries. Even better when they are deployed on actual missions together. So China's taking of a central role in anti-piracy efforts off Somalia can therefore be seen only in the most positive of lights. Beijing has agreed to take turns chairing meetings of the international naval task force set up to protect shipping from the pirates. The deal means the nation will now help patrol the busy corridor through the Gulf of Aden. As China rises, it needs to take a bigger role in ensuring global peace and stability; participation in such important efforts is an excellent step towards that goal. Beijing had for months been lobbying to chair the Bahrain-based co-ordinating group Shade. With so much China-bound Middle East oil and import and export traffic passing through the gulf, having a say in co-ordination is sensible. But protection of interests is just one facet of taking on the responsibility. As importantly, the nation gets to show its worth as a global player, and interaction means greater knowledge and understanding on all sides. About 40 navies are involved in the operation. Shade brings together those of China, the European Union, Nato and a US-led grouping known as the Combined Maritime Forces. Three Chinese naval vessels were sent to the region last year, but their patrol and escort duties have been confined to waters around and leading to the main shipping route through the gulf. Under the chairmanship deal, more warships will be needed so that a sector of the most vulnerable part of the corridor can be protected. The expansion and modernisation of China's military, while a completely reasonable exercise, raises concerns among neighbours and rivals. China, as any other nation, has the right to protect its interests on land and sea, yet the deployment of naval ships to the Indian Ocean to escort Chinese-flagged vessels was viewed with alarm by some governments; they are worried about the nation's growth as a maritime power. Widening and expanding the battle against piracy will help ease those concerns. Trust will be built as escorts are given for vessels other than those that are Chinese. Joint naval exercises will develop co-operation. Administering operations will improve communication. There is every reason why China should send more warships. Nations are struggling to curb the attacks. A stepped-up naval presence in the gulf has made the pirates only more brazen and ambitious. They are now targeting ships as far as 1,000 nautical miles from their bases; the vastness of the Indian Ocean means a dramatically bigger presence is needed. The problem will not go away any time soon. Somalia is a lawless and largely ungoverned country. Piracy has become the biggest source of income for its people. Until the government is able to do its job - a years-off prospect in the present circumstances - the seas off its coastline will remain unsafe. So, for many reasons, China increasing its profile in the fight has to be welcomed. Other nations have realised the importance of its contribution, and this exercise can serve as a model for Beijing's participation in other international operations.