09 December 2013

Piracy’s Next Frontier: A Role for China in Gulf of Guinea Security?

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, Piracy’s Next Frontier: A Role for China in Gulf of Guinea Security?The National Interest, 10 December 2013.

Unlike the Gulf of Aden, a protracted security presence in the GoG arguably allows China to gain more credit as a responsible maritime power, since it relies less on security there. For the reasons discussed above, however, it is still uncertain how appealing the possibility of a GoG deployment is to Beijing at the moment. Moreover, China has already encountered formidable logistics challenges in the Gulf of Aden, where it does not have a permanent military presence. The GoG would presumably be even more taxing on its platforms, with less at stake. Put simply, for China in the near term, there are both more operational and political barriers in GoG operations, and less economic incentive. Indeed, perhaps China’s best strategy would be to integrate into prevailing joint initiatives such as the Obangame Express. This would allow China to send an unprecedented positive signal to the international community by acting congruently rather than in parallel. That said, the Gulf of Aden case has revealed both opportunities and barriers to integrating Chinese and Western security assets. Regardless, steady increases in pirate attacks, a breakthrough in international law, or some other game-changing development that would change the security status quo in the GoG could quickly elicit a more active Chinese response. …