10 June 2013

A Statement before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Panel III: “China’s Political and Security Challenges in the Middle East,” “China and the Middle East” hearing, Washington, DC, 6 June 2013

Andrew S. Erickson, A Statement before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Panel III: “China’s Political and Security Challenges in the Middle East,” “China and the Middle East” hearing, Washington, DC, 6 June 2013.

Click here to watch webcast of hearing.

My testimony reflects my personal views and not the policies or estimates of the U.S. Navy or any other organization of the U.S. government.

It draws on research I have conducted with my colleague Austin Strange. We are about to publish a detailed monograph entitled No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden.”[i]

To date, antipiracy deployments have constituted China’s primary naval presence in the Middle East. Over the past four years, in fourteen task forces, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has deployed nearly ten thousand personnel on more than two dozen warships with more than two dozen helicopters. Through more than five hundred escorts, these forces have protected more than five thousand commercial vessels—Chinese and foreign in nearly equal proportion, the latter flagged by more than fifty nations.

Over 5 million Chinese citizens live abroad, a number that is rising rapidly. Strongly connected to the PRC in many cases, they, like their compatriots back home, have rising expectations of governmental protection in crises. As the Qaddafi regime fell to rebels, on 24 February 2011 the PLAN ordered guided-missile frigate Xuzhou to separate from the seventh antipiracy task force in the Gulf of Aden (GoA) and symbolically oversee the seaborne component of the evacuation of all 35,000 Chinese nationals from Libya. On 1 March, Xuzhou escorted a chartered civilian vessel transporting Chinese evacuees in the PLAN’s first noncombatant evacuation operation overseas. In its first operational deployment overseas, on 28 February 2011 the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) dispatched transports to evacuate Chinese citizens from central Libya. Over 40 sorties, it evacuated 1,655 people (including 240 Nepalese) to Sudan, and returned 287 Chinese onward to China. Following the 5 October 2011 murder of 13 Chinese sailors on Chinese cargo vessels Hua Ping and Yu Xing 8 in the Mekong River, a People’s Armed Police (PAP) border unit began joint riverine patrols with Thai, Lao and Burmese counterparts in December 2011. As Beijing’s 2013 Defense White Paper emphasizes, safeguarding its nationals abroad is a growing priority for China; it devotes three paragraphs to “Protecting Overseas Interests.”[1]

This is part of a larger pattern far from China, particularly in distant seas, or what Chinese strategists call “Far Seas.” Beijing is making increasing but still relatively modest efforts to address challenges from non-state actors. The Far Seas contain far more internationally-shared interests and cooperation than what Chinese strategists term the “Near Seas” (Yellow, East, and South China Seas), home to all China’s outstanding island and maritime claims. Chinese leaders are also likely to be more open to cooperative approaches in the Far Seas because they share many common interests there and realize that building a force capable of credibly challenging the U.S. there would require decades and massive budget increases that might prove unsustainable if China’s economic growth continues to slow. Rather, China appears to be building a limited expeditionary capability best suited for handling non-traditional security missions, including protection of Chinese citizens in rough frontier markets and waterways.[2]

Antipiracy operations in particular offer valuable opportunities to enhance the PLAN’s power projection capabilities and utility as a tool of diplomatic influence. China’s GoA mission:

  • Offers new, irreplaceable naval training and experience
  • Forces personnel to address unpredictable situations
  • Catalyzes development of naval skill sets critical for long-distance operations
  • Stimulates unprecedented real time coordination among the PLAN and other agencies
  • Increases the PLAN’s confidence and bureaucratic influence
  • Offers tentative indications of Beijing’s approach to maritime governance as a great power
  • For instance, mounting operational costs may stimulate gradual development of overseas access points

Antipiracy operations enable China to both respond to internal and external pressures to act on the international stage and raise its overall naval capabilities significantly. GoA challenges have compelled Beijing to adjudicate among diverse, often contradictory, domestic and international forces. As the first major window into China’s Far Seas operations and its approach thereto, GoA operations foreshadow how Beijing will take its place in the world as its interests expand and its actions impact others increasingly. By allowing China to be seen providing public goods and cooperating to defend the global system, antipiracy operations afford China international status and influence that it covets. The impact on international security thus far, while modest, is largely positive.

Chinese Regional Maritime Security Perspectives, Drivers, and Approaches

China’s first regularized overseas naval deployments were motivated in large part by piracy’s threat to Chinese commerce. China’s aggregate trade with EU countries in 2010 was approximately $500 billion.[3] Burgeoning China-EU trade further increases China’s dependence on safe passage through the Bab al-Mandeb, GoA, and Indian Ocean. Adding to these routes’ strategic importance, China now obtains more than 20% of its oil from Saudi Arabia alone.[4] Riyadh has a contentious relationship with Tehran. It also faces a continual risk of insurgency and attacks on oil infrastructure in its strategically vital Eastern Province, which is home to both the bulk of the Kingdom’s oil reserves and its restive Shia population.

As for the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf, China has thus far taken a less confrontational tack than the U.S., cooperating with Iran in areas ranging from energy purchases (even in the face of Western embargos[5]) to military hardware sales. But as Beijing relies increasingly on Persian Gulf energy supplies, it will face corresponding pressures to become more deeply involved in the region’s complex security arena.[6]

Political and defense budget gridlock in Washington, as well as reduction in North American reliance on Gulf oil through rising unconventional oil production in the U.S. and Canada, suggest that U.S. military oil protection activities in the Middle East will ebb. China’s nascent but sustained forward military presence—an anti-piracy flotilla in the Gulf of Aden—now sits only a few days’ sail from the Gulf and could assume much greater strategic importance if the U.S. scales back its presence. As China’s naval and expeditionary military capabilities and Gulf oil imports continue growing, Beijing is likely to use its navy to ensure a deeper influence in the Gulf in coming years.

Growing reliance on Persian Gulf oil demonstrates the growing connection between China’s domestic economic growth and external economic, political, and social forces that Beijing is unable to manipulate directly. While China may not be able or interested in controlling many of these risks, sea lines of communication (SLOC) security affects Chinese interests overseas directly: its trade relies on more pirate-infested waterways than that of any other country.

Beijing’s leaders face both internal and external pressure to exert international leadership. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s legitimacy rests in part on perceptions of how it handles threats to economic and human security. China’s economic, political, and military rise over the past thirty-five years has prompted growing levels of scrutiny by international observers with respect to China’s contribution (or lack thereof) as an interested party in the global commons. The PLAN’s antipiracy mission has provided a highly visible vehicle by which China can respond to this challenge in a way that allows Beijing to balance concerns over international law and internal policy making.

China’s military has accordingly been directed to broaden its missions beyond defense of controlled and claimed territory and maritime zones. China’s leaders have emphasized the need to address nontraditional security concerns as part of fulfilling the “new historic missions” first outlined by former president Hu Jintao in 2004.[7] The persistence and complexity of modern piracy created a learning opportunity for China’s navy, which is particularly unproven in Far Seas. Representing the only major Chinese military effort to date that addresses all four missions, antipiracy operations are critical for demonstrating Chinese military ability to protect citizens and investments abroad.

Antipiracy operations are an ideal training opportunity in large part because they avoid ideological sensitivities: piracy is a private, apolitical, largely economic act, allowing Beijing to maintain that its expeditionary military operations adhere to its longstanding policy of  “noninterference” in other nations’ domestic affairs. Furthermore, using naval power to protect Chinese-flagged and China-bound maritime commerce—even if in nominal fashion—bolsters the CCP’s popular legitimacy and gives the naval brass powerful ammunition to pursue increased funding, shipbuilding, and training in inter-service resource competition.

PLAN GoA experience should pay dividends for China’s leadership as Chinese overseas interests proliferate. As China’s economic ties sprawl further beyond its continental borders, the costs of security failure will grow, especially in a ‘fishbowl’ environment where domestic and foreign audiences observe China’s behavior intently. Beijing’s leaders can now use the PLAN’s GoA experience as a foundational guide for addressing economic, political, and military factors simultaneously to solve complex challenges to the security of China’s overseas interests.

Impact on Far and Near Seas Operations

Sustained distant sea operations demand effective performance across multiple dimensions. The PLAN’s anti-piracy mission has enhanced its supply and replenishment capabilities, civil-military and inter-military coordination and communication, crew health maintenance, convoy protection abilities, and perhaps most importantly, its ability to improvise and respond to sudden and unpredictable situations. This is a tremendous learning experience for a navy with few opportunities to operate extra-regionally. Future PLAN Far Seas operations will undoubtedly build off of this foundation. Escort operations are likely to persist for some time and hence will continue to offer the first major insights into China’s Far Seas operations and its approach thereto.

Four years on, the PLAN’s GoA antipiracy mission has yielded multiple Chinese naval breakthroughs, all of which underscore China’s most significant lesson: the PLAN had to learn many things by doing them. Select PLAN personnel have sharpened their skills, improved coordination mechanisms, and tested new technologies and platforms. China’s navy has realized operational and procedural improvements, with impressive speed and resourcefulness.

The mission’s greatest organizational value is its forcing and facilitating of real-time interagency coordination of a scope, duration, and effectiveness rarely seen in Chinese civil-military and security affairs. The PLAN has assumed unprecedented responsibility and initiative in coordinating operations with such civilian agencies as the Ministry of Transportation (MoT), transcending traditional bureaucratic and civil-military stovepipes and bringing the service out from the PLA’s organizational shadow. Geographic and operational exigencies may increasingly allow the PLAN to come into its own as China’s most externally-focused military service and a growing tool for Chinese policymakers. Antipiracy and related operations can spur needed improvements, and even serve as a test-bed for their realization. Transformation in organizational coordination is aided by the application of new technology. For instance, the PLAN has been able to test Chinese satellites and new communications technology under operational conditions far from home.

Chinese ships and crew deployed to the GoA must master the logistical concepts and skills associated with protracted, long-distance naval operations, including balancing underway and in-port replenishment and maintaining crew morale during protracted hardships. The PLAN has traversed a steep learning curve with impressive speed and resourcefulness, enhancing procedural, training, and operational techniques as well as associated support. Maintenance procedures and even ship design may be improved accordingly. PLAN GoA achievements transcend antipiracy best practices: they support broader future capabilities. At the tactical level, many fundamental skills that the PLAN is learning are what the U.S. Navy terms mission-essential tasks; e.g., proficiency in nighttime shipboard takeoff and landing is required of a helicopter crew for maritime special-forces operations. China’s navy is increasing out-of-area capabilities, but would require tremendous improvements in force structure, human capital, training, and experience to translate present resources into an ability to engage in high-intensity combat operations in the Far Seas.

The mission’s greatest operational value is forcing personnel to face unscripted, unpredictable situations—the most intense operational experience presently available to China’s navy, which might otherwise remain an unwieldy and risk-adverse service. If officers and personnel who participated in the GoA mission are rewarded for risk taking (in the PLAN context), initiative, and innovative problem solving, this could also catalyze a gradual culture change that makes the PLAN a more dynamic and flexible organization. In the long-term, such leveraging of operational experience could make the PLAN a much more effective fighting organization than, e.g., the PLAAF, which receives expensive new hardware, but lacks real forward operational experience.

Benefits are already being applied in other areas, such as training in the Near Seas. That ~20-25% of the PLAN’s surface ships (and nearly all its most modern platforms) have served in the GoA has implications for potential Near Seas contingencies. Compared to its smaller neighbors, China continues to accumulate operational expertise that should raise its readiness for manifold future contingencies. China’s navy spreads GoA mission benefits throughout its ranks through systematic training, and by cycling ships and personnel through GoA task forces. For example, PLAN officials such as former East Sea Fleet Deputy Commander Zhang Huachen assert that their service should integrate systems, ideas, and practices from its Near Seas and Far Seas operations.[8] PLAN ships en route to the GoA often first train in the Near Seas. For example, the 11th escort task force conducted three months of “pre-war” training after leaving its homeport in Qingdao.[9] It underwent over 260 hours of training while transiting the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, Miyako Strait, and Northwest Pacific.[10]

To be sure, increasing Far Seas activity does impose costs. Principle expenditures of China’s antipiracy mission include fuel, food, and health supplies, and the ammunition and equipment used in training exercises and live fire, as well as depreciation of PLAN vessels and equipment. Additionally, Chinese naval planners are surely calculating the opportunity cost of deploying supply and landing ships to the GoA when these ships could be preparing for Near Seas operations, such as a potential Taiwan contingency or, even more likely, a militarized South China Sea dispute or escalation in the East China Sea. Some basic operational procedures applicable to the GoA mission may be transferrable to these scenarios, but amphibious vessels like the Yuzhao-class Type 071 landing platform dock (LPD) could derive more relevant benefits from specialized training in regional waters.

Naval Diplomacy and Emerging Regional Logistics Footprint

The PLAN is assuming a niche role in Chinese diplomacy, as warships work increasingly with other navies and call on foreign ports for resupply and exchanges. Chinese task forces initially only docked in foreign ports one or twice per deployment. But following the extension of deployments from 4 to 6 months, task forces often dock several times. PLAN escort forces have already completed port calls in nearly 30 countries on four continents to refuel and replenish, as well as to enhance bilateral military ties through joint drills and other onshore exchanges. As Appendix 1 indicates, Chinese escort forces have called on most major Middle Eastern countries, but have logged the most extensive replenishment visits by far in Port Salalah, Oman, and Djibouti. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have served as overhaul locations.

China is utilizing its protracted anti-piracy deployments for naval diplomacy with dozens of littoral states and providing financial and material assistance for port construction in many of those states. Chinese experts differ regarding whether and to what extent China should pursue overseas “bases.” Most agree that China cannot rely on its current Far Seas logistical framework indefinitely, as ships and resources are increasingly strained. Despite notable logistical innovations and resulting efficiency gains since 2008, Chinese planners are keenly aware of the great expense of sustaining Far Seas antipiracy missions. Lacking permanent bases, PLAN escort forces must refuel at sea or during official port calls arranged well in advance. Auxiliary vessels cannot provide the same services as would permanent onshore basing facilities. Yet large traditional bases would be difficult to reconcile with Beijing’s nonintervention policies. Bases might also be regarded as lightning rods for political opposition; similar concerns reportedly imposed extreme limitations on early antipiracy task force port calls.

China is therefore likely to gradually pursue what the U.S. Navy would term a “places, not bases” approach. Port Salalah is already a de facto ‘place’ for the PLAN. In March 2013, Djibouti, already home to U.S., French, and Japanese bases, reportedly invited China to establish a military facility. Port Aden, Yemen, ranks a distant third, likely because of its perceived vulnerability to instability and terrorism, as demonstrated by the USS Cole incident. Appendix 2 offers details on present and potential PLAN access points.

Responsible Stakeholding and Prospects for Further Cooperation

Pirates’ ability to disguise themselves as innocent civilians and to disperse their activities makes piracy a complex, expensive problem for naval forces to address, necessitating international cooperation. China, desiring its rise to be seen as peaceful and mutually beneficial, has dispatched the PLAN to join other forces in the GoA. Perhaps most importantly, this offers China an opportunity to participate meaningfully—if, thus far, modestly—in the construction of twenty-first-century global governance architecture.

China’s participation in Shared Awareness and De-Confliction (SHADE) is constructive, if circumscribed. SHADE is the first organization to coordinate efforts among established regional naval organizations such as Combined Task Force 151 (CTF)-151, NATO and Operation Atalanta/European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU-NAVFOR-ATALANTA); and is co-run by these three groups. China and other independently deploying nations have participated consistently, despite lacking access to chairmanship. This suggests that China is willing to cooperate with the U.S. and other powers for mutual gain in increasingly innovative fashion.

Propelled by domestic and international expectations, GoA antipiracy operations increase expectations in both. While PLAN antipiracy operations to date have succeeded operationally, at the strategic level they also illuminate a growing gap between Chinese and Western perceptions of China as a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system. By contributing useful public goods they offer China increased global maritime influence; nevertheless, they remain insufficient in degree or scope to earn Beijing the status that it covets. China, while conceding that there remains ample room for improvement, portrays itself as an increasingly responsible actor in the global commons—yet some Western audiences worry increasingly about Beijing’s lack of integration into, and perhaps subtle rejection of, the existing international structure.

The PLAN seems open in principle to the possibility of greater cooperation in the GoA and possibly beyond. While Beijing is eager to increase cooperation quantitatively off the Horn of Africa, official statements to date suggest that this would likely entail increasing basic coordination, low-level information sharing, navy-to-navy exchanges, and joint operations—all of which China’s navy does already, and none of which would represent a qualitative breakthrough. There are no signs that China will decide to operate within a multinational organization in the near future: Beijing appears to believe that the costs of joining a collaborative effort outweigh potential benefits. Independent operation avoids any situation in which China would have to subordinate itself—even symbolically—to another state or organization, and provides the PLAN with considerable freedom to alter its missions without having to notify partners or undergo lengthy multilateral deliberations. Even were China willing to interoperate with U.S. or other Western forces directly, the requisite sharing of software, information, and other interoperability enablers might not be possible due to security concerns.

Conclusion and Policy Recommendations:

China has reached a level of aggregate national power at which it would be ineffectual for the U.S. to simply oppose all Chinese exercise of power with which it is not entirely satisfied. In many cases, no amount of lecturing will change Chinese behavior. With respect to communications, Washington’s focus should instead be on ensuring that U.S. and allied taxpayers and voters are fully informed, and hence willing to continue to fund robust military spending so that the U.S. approaches interactions with China from a point of strength; the Commission continues to play an important role in this regard. With respect to actions vis-à-vis China, the U.S. should not waste time on unrealistic proposals. Instead, it should support positive Chinese approaches to cooperation and oppose with great care and selectivity specific Chinese negative approaches by marshaling concrete resources through a whole-of-government approach that combines information, economic, diplomatic, and military policies all oriented toward achieving a common strategic outcome in U.S. policy toward China.

To make this possible, Washington must prioritize its geostrategic interests vis-à-vis Beijing and support them with resources rather than rhetoric. U.S. policy should emphasize thwarting Chinese attempts to carve out a zone of exceptionalism in the Near Seas within which existing international law and other norms do not apply and where China would have a freer hand to use the threat, or actual use, of force to coerce its neighbors into resolving disputes in Beijing’s favor. Accomplishing this objective requires an Asia-Pacific Rebalancing that is comprehensive, credible, and sustained (properly funded). Here ship numbers (particularly of nuclear-powered attack and guided missile submarines) will speak much louder than sermons or soundbites, both to China, and perhaps equally importantly, to longstanding and newly emerging U.S. partners in the region.

Generally speaking, China’s Far Seas activities should be viewed as far more vulnerable to disruption, and potentially mutually-beneficial, than those in the Near Seas. Rather than involving nationalistic zero-sum claims, they target non-state actors who threaten not only Chinese lives, property, and prosperity but also potentially those of other nations as well. At a minimum, this allows for sovereign exercise of Chinese rights; in many cases, it permits productive pursuit of common interests. Far Seas military operations occur far from China’s homeland, with its extensive secure communications, logistics, and defenses. They are thus relatively unprotected; particularly any fixed overseas access points that China may develop. Chinese firms extracting oil in unstable regions supply the global market, lowering prices for everyone. Even Chinese cooperation with nations of concern, such as Iran, is likely to be tempered by China’s desire for positive economic conditions and pariah states’ own self-defeating approaches.

These key dynamics suggest the following policy recommendations:

  • Encourage reduction in Chinese ‘free-riding’ in the Far Seas. The essence of U.S. concern with respect to Chinese Far Seas operations should not be an ‘overactive’ China, but rather a ‘selfish superpower’ China that husbands its military energies for Near Seas coercion.
  • Welcome constructive Chinese contributions, don’t fixate on form. In keeping with its imperative to prioritize interests, the U.S. should show flexibility vis-à-vis Chinese actions that are largely positive. Washington should anticipate Beijing’s hesitancy to simply integrate into Western-established security mechanisms (e.g., CTF-151) and look for ways to deepen cooperation incrementally through other mechanisms, such as SHADE.
  • Expand Far Seas cooperation as feasible. A key question for U.S.-China relations will be to what extent the two Pacific powers can broaden cooperation in the Far Seas amid ongoing differences in the Near Seas. Given China’s Near Seas focus, this question will be answered largely in Beijing.

Thank you very much for your time. I welcome your questions and comments.


Appendix 1: Selected Port Calls by First 14 PLAN Antipiracy Task Forces in the Middle East and North Africa, February 2009-April 2013


  • 2-5 April 2013, Friendly Visit


Al Manamah

  • 9-13 December 2010, Friendly Visit



  • 24 January 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 3 May 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 13 September 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 22 September 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 24 December 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 21 February 2011 Replenish/Overhaul
  • 5 October 2011, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 24-29 March 2012, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 14 May 2012, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 13-18 August 2012, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 1-6 December 2012 Replenish/Overhaul



  • 26-30 July 2010, Friendly Visit



  • 14-17 August 2012, Friendly Visit
KUWAITShuwaikh27 November-1 December 2011, Friendly Visit MOROCCOCasablanca

  • 9-13 April, Friendly Visit



  • 1-8 December 2011, Friendly Visit


  • 21 June-1 July 2009, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 14 August 2009, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 2 January 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 1 April 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 8 June 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 10 August 2010, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 19 January 2011, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 28 January 2011, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 10 April 2011, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 23 June 2011, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 8-11 August 2011, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 7-10 November 2011, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 21-24 February 2012, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 1-3 July 2012, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 9 July 2012, Replenish/Overhaul
  • 28-29 March 2013, Replenish/Overhaul
QATARDoha2-7 August 2011, Friendly VisitSAUDI ARABIAJiddah27-31 November 2010, Friendly Visit3 September 2011, Replenish/Overhaul17 June 2012, Replenish/Overhaul

1-6 January 2013, Replenish/Overhaul



Abu Dhabi

24-28 March 2010, Friendly Visit




21 February 2009, Replenish/Overhaul

25 April 2009, Replenish/Overhaul

23 July 2009, Replenish/Overhaul

28 September 2009, Replenish/Overhaul

5 February 2010, Replenish/Overhaul

16 May 2010, Replenish/Overhaul

26 July 2010, Replenish/Overhaul

1 October 2010, Replenish/Overhaul



Appendix 2: Ports for Potential PLAN Overseas Access and PLAN Visits Thereto

Port Country Quality of Repair Facilities # PLAN Anti-Piracy-Related Visits Since 28 December 2008 Nature of Visits
Salalah Oman Only small craft facilities currently available. 15+ Replenish/Overhaul
Aden Yemen National Dockyard Company offers range of limited facilities, services. Workshops, large lathes, electrical, casting, refrigeration, other repair shops; in-water repair services. Two floating docks. 8+ Replenish/Overhaul
Djibouti Djibouti Multiple foreign naval/military bases; China reportedly invited to establish its own military facility. Small repairs possible; container terminal phase 1 construction completed; can berth 2 large container vessels together. 11+ Replenish/Overhaul
Gwadar Pakistan 500 acre shipyard. 2 600kdwt drydocks planned. VLCC + ULCC construction planned. Expansive second phase of the port was supposed to be completed in 2010 but has not yet begun construction. Further development to include 15-20 berths, ship cargo handling equipment, port machinery, and warehouses; not commercially viable at present. China contributed $198 million of initial $250 million port investment. China Overseas Ports Holding Company Limited assumed port management control on 23 May 2013, with China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) as project contractor. 19 million tonnes/yr. capacity oil refinery planned. N/A N/A
Karachi Pakistan PLAN’s preferred Indian Ocean repair facility. Two drydocks available; 18,000/ 25,000 DWT; development of bulk cargo, deepwater container terminals, and other expansion underway, including 18-m container terminal. 4+ Friendly Visits/Joint Drills
Hambantota Sri Lanka Ship serving capabilities planned; port to be constructed in 4 stages over 15 years. Phase 1 accommodated first vessel in 2010; general cargo berth of 610 m; handles vessels up to 100,000 DWT; phase 2 initiated N/A N/A
Colombo Sri Lanka Multiple afloat repair berths. Drydocks available up to 120,000 DWT; Deepwater port opened in 2012; Colombo South Harbor Development project will increase depth to 18 m then 23 m; phased development of 4 new terminals with 3-4 berths each. N/A N/A
Trincomalee Sri Lanka Minor repairs possible. Slipways for naval, commercial vessels. N/A N/A
Chittagong Bangladesh Private repair yards available. Drydock available for vessels up to 16,500DWT. New collocated port to be completed in three phases by 2015; will increase capacity from current 1.1-million to 3-million TEU for container traffic, and 30.5-million to 100-million tons for bulk cargo. 2 Replenish/Overhaul/Joint Drills
Sittwe Burma Available; Kyaukpyu deep sea port on Maday Island by Than Zit river mouth; initiated in 2009, project will produce 91 berths, accommodate 300,000-ton oil tankers. 1 Friendly visits
Victoria Seychelles Limited repairs. Divers, underwater welding equipment available. Drydock shipways available for vessels <300 GT. 1+ Friendly visits
Singapore Singapore Excellent; 1 terminal, 9 sub-ports; military ports. 1 Replenish/Overhaul/Friendly visits
Bagamoyo Tanzania Not yet built. Announced in March/April 2013 that China plans to fund Bagamoyo port with capacity of 20 million TEU/year to be completed by 2017. China to commit 800 billion Tanzanian shillings ($500 million) in 2013 for starting port construction; remainder of Chinese financial aid package will follow in 2014-15; $10B total Chinese investment; will include the building of new 34-kilometre road joining Bagamoyo to Mlandizi, 65 km railway connecting Bagamoyo to Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) and Central Railway. N/A N/A


Plus signs indicate the possibility that not all port calls have been included.

[i] Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden, Naval War College China Maritime Study 10 (forthcoming summer 2013), http://www.usnwc.edu/Research—Gaming/China-Maritime-Studies-Institute/Publications.aspx. Unless otherwise specified, all data in this testimony are documented here.

[1] 中国武装力量的多样化运用 [The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces] (Beijing: 中华人民共和国国务院新闻办公室 [Information Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China], 16 April 2013), http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-04/16/c_132312681.htm.

[2] Gabriel Collins, “China’s Military Gets Expeditionary,” The Diplomat, 15 April 2011, http://thediplomat.com/2011/04/15/china%E2%80%99s-military-gets-expeditionary/.

[3] As of November 2012, the EU was China’s largest trading partner and China was the EU’s second-largest bilateral partner behind the U.S. See http://ec.europa.eu/trade/creating-opportunities/bilateral-relations/countries/china/.

[4] “中美能源合作变量” [Variables in Sino-U.S. Energy Cooperation], 新金融观察报 [New Financial Observer], 27 August 2012, http://finance.jrj.com.cn/2012/08/27133814273855.shtml.

[5] Gabriel Collins and Andrew S. Erickson, “Chinese Traders Poised to Profit from Iran Oil Embargo,” China Real Time Report (中国实时报), Wall Street Journal, 26 January 2012, http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2012/01/26/with-eu-embargo-on-iran-oil-chinese-traders-set-to-seize-opportunity/.

[6] Gabriel Collins, “Essential Oil—The Rise of Iraq’s Exports to China,” Jane’s Intelligence Review 25. 4 (1 April 2013).

[7] They require the PLA to: ensure military support for continued CCP rule; defend China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national security; protect China’s expanding national interests; and ensure a peaceful global environment and promote mutual development.

[8] 彭超 [Peng Chao] and 钱宏 [Qian Hong], “加强我军海外非战争军事行动能力建设: 专访军队人大代表, 东海舰队原副司令员张华臣” [Strengthening the Construction of Chinese Military’s Capability for Overseas Military Operations Other Than War—Exclusive Interview With Military Delegate to the National People’s Congress and Former Deputy Commander of the East Sea Fleet Zhang Huachen], 人民海军 [People’s Navy], 14 March 2012, 2.

[9] 米晋国 [Mi Jinguo] and 崔岳 [Cui Yue],“战鼓声声旌旗猎―声声旌军第十一批护航编队出征之际” [Battle Drums Sounding and Hunting Banners and Flags—Written at the Departure of the 11th Escort Task Force], 人民海军 [People’s Navy], 28 February 2012, 3.

[10] Ibid.