01 November 2013

China and the International Antipiracy Effort

Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange, China and the International Antipiracy Effort,” The Diplomat, 1 November 2013.

China has achieved many firsts under the umbrella of antipiracy. These include its first major contributions to securing sea lines of communication (SLOC), a commendable start. World navies do better at protecting vulnerable maritime regions when they cooperate. There are manifold reasons for this: the transnational economic and political damage that piracy wreaks, the vast area of the western Indian Ocean in which pirates attack, the large number of merchant ships traversing these waters, the diversity of flag states responsible for them, and the resource-intensiveness of naval response options. Accordingly, numerous regional and international antipiracy mechanisms have been established in key strategic areas on the basis of this principle. These systems have made measurable progress in reducing pirate attacks in areas such as the Gulf of Aden. Nonetheless, the Chinese government has chosen to have its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) act unilaterally, albeit in parallel with international efforts. Several other states have made similar policy decisions. Despite its status as an independent provider of SLOC security, however, the PLAN’s coordination with Western antipiracy forces suggests that China can contribute in parallel with, rather than threaten to destabilize, existing maritime governance mechanisms in the Far Seas. …