01 July 2008

The Growth of China’s Navy: Implications for Indian Ocean Security

Andrew S. Erickson, “The Growth of China’s Navy: Implications for Indian Ocean Security,” Strategic Analysis 32.4 (July 2008): 655-76.

China’s rapid naval development raises pressing questions about its future scope and purpose. Examination of Beijing’s evolving economic, energy, and geopolitical interests as well as emerging People’s Liberation Army (PLA) doctrine suggests a growing concern over the security of sea lanes of communication (SLOC) as far away as the Indian Ocean. The PLAN is yet to establish a significant presence in this region, however; what are its prospects for doing so?

The PLA Navy (PLAN)’s capabilities in key areas (assets, trained personnel, experience) are currently insufficient to support long-range sea lanes of communication (SLOC) defense missions. With sufficient effort, Beijing may eventually overcome these obstacles, but it would probably also have to acquire some form of overseas basing access, which its foreign policy still proscribes. As it works to bridge this gap, China will use ‘soft power’ diplomacy, trade, humanitarian assistance, and arms sales to increase its influence in the region, thereby preserving the possibility of cooperation with major regional and international actors. … …