07 January 2014

Why China’s Gulf Piracy Fight Matters

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Why China’s Gulf Piracy Fight Matters,” Global Public Square, CNN, 7 January 2014.

Editor’s note: Andrew S. Erickson is an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College. Austin M. Strange is a research associate at the China Maritime Studies Institute. The views expressed are the authors’ alone.

December 26, Chairman Mao’s birthday, is always a significant date for China. But last month’s 120th anniversary came at a time when his legacy is increasingly subject to vigorous debate among the Chinese public, media, academia and even officialdom. And it also established a new landmark in contemporary Chinese history, an unprecedented milestone in Chinese foreign policy that Mao would surely be proud of: the 5th year anniversary of China’s naval anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

To honor the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s contributions to maritime security off Somalia, the China Maritime Museum, located in Shanghai, opened a special exhibit that runs into March, and which features photos and actual mission mementos. Chinese media outlets continue to roll out a flurry of articles commemorating the occasion. But what is the actual significance of Chinese anti-piracy activities? And what has China accomplished there over the past five years?

This article draws on the author’s recent monograph, No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden, Naval War College CMSI China Maritime Study 10 (November 2013).