09 September 2013

Spring Training for the Big Leagues

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Spring Training for the Big Leagues,” Guest Blog Post for Elizabeth C. Economy, Asia Unbound, Council on Foreign Relations, 9 September 2013.

I am delighted to introduce the first of a four-part blog series that will be running through December on the PLA Navy by Andrew Erickson, an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College, and Austin Strange, a researcher for the College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. Throughout the series, they will be tackling issues associated with the Chinese navy’s antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and their impact on China’s naval development, power projection, and international influence. —Elizabeth Economy

With tensions ongoing in the contested Near Seas (Yellow, East, and South China Seas), China’s Gulf of Aden (GoA) antipiracy operations merit closer examination. Since December 26, 2008, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has dispatched twenty-eight of its most powerful vessels in fifteen multi-ship antipiracy deployments to the GoA. There they safeguard legitimate Chinese interests and make welcome international security contributions. It is after the navy’s flotillas return that they become a double-edged sword for the United States and its Asia-Pacific allies and friends from the global maritime partnerships team: for these are the same surface platforms and personnel the PLAN would call on to support Near Seas sovereignty claims, and antipiracy experience is improving them rapidly. The same naval team that China trains in the GoA’s warm waters will be better prepared to perform in multiple ballparks: not just goodwill exhibition games but hard-core competition where it counts most. …

This post draws on the authors’ monograph “No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden,” Naval War College China Maritime Study 10 (forthcoming 2013). It reflects solely their personal views.