24 March 2011

NWC Professors Publish Book on U.S.-China Maritime Relations

NWC Professors Publish Book on U.S.-China Maritime Relations,” Naval War College Public Affairs, 24 March 2011.

NEWPORT, R.I. – Three members of the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) collaborated on a recently released book titled, “China, the United States, and 21st-Century Sea Power,” which explores areas of mutual maritime interest between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

It addresses whether and how to potentially integrate a stronger China into a global maritime security partnership, a subject that has not been adequately explored.

NWC professors Andrew Erickson, Nan Li, and Lyle Goldstein developed the book from CMSI’s third annual conference, “Defining a Maritime Partnership with China,” which was held in December 2007. This is the fourth book in the series “Studies in Chinese Maritime Development,” published by CMSI through the Naval Institute Press. As with previous volumes, copies have been distributed to key officials and experts in the Navy and other organizations of the government to offer a deliberately diverse range of analysis and policy recommendations.

The conference addressed shared interests and concerns in the global maritime environment. It featured seven delegates from China, who represented some of China’s leading universities in the maritime domain, as well as PLA Navy Rear Admiral Yang Yi, then director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at China’s National Defense University. American participants included representatives from the U.S. Pacific Fleet and other relevant commands.

“Despite their differences, Washington and Beijing must reach a new understanding regarding their respective roles in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific more broadly,” Erickson said. “The benefits of doing so could be significant. Despite recent challenges in their bilateral military relations, the United States and China have substantial shared interests that could enable extensive U.S.–China maritime security cooperation.”

The conference discussed in great detail potential areas for cooperation between the U.S. and China, and reached a number of significant conclusions, among them that economic interdependence provides a solid foundation for partnership on the world’s oceans; that there have been important advances in collaboration in search-and-rescue missions and fisheries enforcement; and that policy makers must make political and institutional space for maritime and naval professionals to build cooperation.

In addition to commercial and economic partnerships, non-traditional military capabilities hold promise as well. China’s navy has made several substantial peacetime achievements in recent years. Most recently, in February 2011, a Chinese warship safeguarded the evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya and in the summer of 2010, a Chinese hospital ship treated over 15,000 people in the Indian Ocean and Africa. The PLA Navy has been involved in counter-piracy missions in Gulf of Aden since December 2008.

“Improved confidence can most realistically be achieved piecemeal, in specific functional and geographic areas, with the best approach to direct efforts ‘from easier to harder,’ ‘from non-traditional to traditional,’ and ‘from further from China to nearer to China,’” Erickson said.

The book has received endorsements from top experts and practitioners from both sides of the Pacific. According to Professor Wang Jisi, dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies, “At a time when many are talking about a possible China-U.S. naval conflict as part of their strategic rivalry, this path-breaking volume offers an alternative approach. The authors present a blueprint for pursuing shared U.S.-China interests and cooperation in the maritime domain.” Dr. Shi Yinhong, director, Center for American Studies, Renmin University of China, adds that “in the maritime strategic tensions more prominent than before between China and the United States, this… collection is essential because it focuses on the hopeful maritime security partnership between them.”

In the view of retired Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command and ambassador to China, “This comprehensive set of thoughts, background, and actionable recommendations belongs on the desk of military and diplomatic decision-makers.” Retired Admiral Timothy J. Keating, former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, concluded that “The opportunities and challenges confronting the United States and China in the maritime domain in the years ahead are of great importance to those two countries and to the entire Asia-Pacific region. Thoughtful examination and analysis of those opportunities and challenges, as done in this publication, will provide a critical foundation for decision-makers as they address stability and security issues for the United States and China.”

From NWC Public Affairs

NOTE: the views expressed in “China, the United States, and 21st-Century Sea Power” are the authors’ own, and do not speak for the U.S. Naval War College. Additionally, their views do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Naval War College, the Department of the Navy or Department of Defense or any other agency or branch of the U.S. government.

For further details, see Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Nan Li, eds., China, the United States, and 21st Century Sea Power: Defining a Maritime Security Partnership (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010).