China’s Pacific neighbors worry that the superpower’s growing naval power could cause regional tensions to rise and fester…
The first deployment of three Chinese ships to the coast of Africa in hundreds of years means China is becoming more involved in world and international matters. The pirates in Somalia are causing insurance prices to rise for everyone. So China’s committment and involvement causes many to applaud.
But not everyone is applauding China’s naval moves. Many worry.
Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, to name just a few nations, worry that China’s growing naval strength means China will eventually want something in Asia and have the power to take it without too much discussion.
Even Pacific Ocean nations like Australia worry that China will become too dominant in the region.
Here at Peace and Freedom, readers from Vietnam, Japan and South Korea have swamped us with questions about China’s actual strength at sea — and China’s intent.
And why does China need a large navy? What is China’s “Grand Strategy”?
“I think the objective of the grand strategy is to squeeze out, very slowly and very gradually, the influence of the United States in East Asia, without war, with economy and culture,” said Chong-pin, Professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan.
The “Grand Strategy” will ultimately include aircraft carriers.
China will “seriously consider” building aircraft carriers to protect its vast maritime territory, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense said on just last week as the anti-piracy mission was being prepared.
Huang Xueping made the remarks at a news conference called to announce details of a Chinese flotilla that departed for Somali waters on Friday to protect Chinese ships from pirates.
Asked whether the Chinese navy’s first deployment abroad is a good opportunity to build a carrier, Huang said the government would seriously consider the issue.
“Aircraft carriers are a symbol of a country’s overall national strength as well as the competitiveness of its naval force,” Huang said.
“China has a long coastline and the sacred duty of China’s armed forces is to safeguard the country’s marine safety and sovereignty over coastal areas and territorial seas,” he said.
Above: Near the Republic of Korea (Oct. 7, 2008). The ROKS Gangkamchan (DDH 979) steams by a line of warships during the International Fleet Review “Pass and Review.”
China has many mineral rights and oil disagreements at sea with Japan, Vietnam and other nations — and a poweful navy means to these countries that China will, before long, lay down the law from Beijing on other regional neighbors.
According to Japan’s Navy Retired vice admiral Fumio Ota, currently director of the Center for Security and Crisis Management Education of the National Defense Academy, “One reason is China wants to make advances in the sea to secure energy resources. The other is to survey and expand the area of its operational waters in preparation for a war with Taiwan ….. China’s State Oceanic Administration has said: ‘The one who controls the sea will survive and grow. China will build a powerful and modern maritime state.'”
Most worriesome to the United States and those neighbors of China is this: no one really knows how big and capable China’s navy has become or how much China is spending on naval programs.
Beijing’s rapidly growing military spending, estimated at $85 billion to $125 billion last year, is still dwarfed by the United States, where a half-trillion dollars is shelled out for defense spending each year, not counting money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last year said the U.S. Navy needs to spend about $21 billion annually on new ship construction over 30 years to meet its goal of a 313-ship fleet. That is far above the Pentagon’s average spending between 2000 and 2005, and about $6 billion more than President Bush requested for this year.
But it is China’s secrecy on military spending and programs that causes so many to worry in Asia — and that is why U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates frequently speaks about the need for “transparency” in both China’s military investments and their intentions.
China’s military spending and intentions are hidden behind a fog of state controlled media and government secrecy.
On the aircraft carrier issue, China’s Maj. Gen. Quan Lihua said:
“The question is not whether you have an aircraft carrier, but what you do with your aircraft carrier. Even if one day we have an aircraft carrier, unlike another country we will not use it to pursue global deployment or global reach.”
Of course: we can all trust China.
Piracy draws China back to the ranks of maritime giants
China’s “Grand Strategy”: U.S. Out Of Asia?
China Launching First Long-Range Naval Mission Since 15th Century
General Hints China’s Navy May Add Carrier
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, seen here in December 2008.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Scott Olson)
From the Associated Press
China’s willingness to send ships so far from home is also the latest example of the growing power and confidence of the country’s navy. In recent years, the military has been loading up on warships, planes, missiles and other weapons — a beef-up that has worried its neighbors and the U.S.
Those most concerned include the Japanese and South Koreans, who have long-standing disputes about territorial waters that occasionally flare up. China has also been locked in an uneasy stand off with the Philippines, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations over the ownership of the potentially oil-rich Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii, said countries in the region will view China’s mission off Somalia differently.
“For Japan and some in South Korea, this is another step in the unwelcome growth of the Chinese navy as a capable blue-water force, which has only downsides for Tokyo and Seoul,” said Roy, an expert on China’s military.
“I think the objective of the grand strategy is to squeeze out, very slowly and very gradually, the influence of the United States in East Asia, without war, with economy and culture,” said Chong-pin, Professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan at Princeton.
But he said most Southeast Asian countries may see China’s involvement in the anti-piracy campaign as a positive thing. It would mean that China was using its greater military might for constructive purposes, rather than challenging the current international order.
However, the analyst added, “The Chinese deployment gets at a question the U.S. and other governments have been asking: ‘Why the big Chinese military buildup when no country threatens China?’ Or more bluntly, ‘Why do the Chinese need a blue-water navy when the U.S. Navy already polices the world’s oceans?”‘
Roy said the answer is that China is unwilling to rely on the U.S. to protect China’s increasingly global interests. Beijing still believes it needs to enter the field, Roy said, and that leaves open the possibility of a China-U.S. naval rivalry in the future.
China has said the mission’s purpose was to protect Chinese ships and crews that have come under attack from pirates. The vessels would also be willing to share intelligence and conduct humanitarian rescue operations with other countries involved in the anti-piracy efforts, Senior Col. Huang Xueping, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said Tuesday.
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