China declares its maritime ambitions

The glorious task of protecting China’s authority and security and maritime rights

It is now well-known that China is assembling a “string of pearls”—a series of docking, basing or operational arrangements at strategic locations—in the Indian Ocean. In December 2004, it was reported that it is in the advanced stages of launching a new nuclear submarine. Chinese ‘fishermen’ were found conducting ‘fishing trips’ thousands of miles from home. Western strategists and their Indian counterparts who used to point out China’s relative weakness in naval aviation—and its lack of an aircraft carrier—were compelled to redo their sums last year. That’s when it turned out that China had other plans for a half-finished Russian aircraft carrier that it had purchased, ostensibly to turn into a gambling den off Macao.

President Hu Jintao’s speech this week should help connect the dots.

“We should endeavor to build a powerful people’s navy that can adapt to its historical mission during a new century and a new period,” Hu was quoted as saying, accompanied by photographs of him wearing military style green. “In the process of protecting the nation’s authority and security and maintaining our maritime rights, the navy’s role is very important. It is a glorious task.” [IHT]

The implication for India cannot be more clear: deepen co-operation with the Japanese and American navies and pay more attention to building strategic relations with Viet Nam.

Related Readings: China’s white paper on national defence 2006; Lawrence Prabhakar on securing Indian littorals in the twenty-first century; Christopher Pehrson on how the US can address China’s rising sea power; Daniel Twining on how Indian and American interests are converging vis-a-vis China; and finally, Achin Vanaik (again)—arguing that India and Japan are being used by the United States in its bid to contain China.

2 thoughts on “China declares its maritime ambitions”

  1. Preetam,

    Nothing much, from what is publicly known. In my opinion, Viet Nam is unwilling to risk incurring China’s wrath up to this point. The costs of enraging China have so far outweighed the benefits of partnering India. The fact that there is so little economic intercourse between India and Viet Nam (as compared to China-Viet Nam) contributes to this state of affairs.

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