12 August 2015

Dredging Fleet Shores up Beijing’s Position in South China Sea and Beyond

Andrew Erickson and Kevin Bond, “Dredging Fleet Shores up Beijing’s Position in South China Sea and Beyond,” Lowy Interpreter, 12 August 2015.

China’s burgeoning dredging fleet adds another piece to the country’s ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of infrastructure developmental tools that are driving its controversial island building in the South China Sea.

Long after the sediment settles in those formerly pristine waters, China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road’ strategy and related economic diplomacy is poised to drive major dredging demand in the form of port construction and channel widening. This is part of a larger pattern in which Beijing is able to capitalise on a key strength: parlaying broad economic, industrial and technological development into advancement of specific, yet evolving, geostrategic goals: the protection of what China believes are its maritime rights in the South China Sea and the advancement of its Maritime Silk Road initiative. …

In the short span of a decade, China has thus created and deployed a fleet that is literally altering geography and leveraging broad economic, industrial and technological development to advance China’s geostrategic goals. Such capability could also easily be leveraged to build an overseas naval base, or even simply to expand existing commercial ports to a large enough size as to host a PLA Navy ship for replenishment, thereby increasing the PLA Navy’s far-seas capability.