02 January 2019

The China Anti-Piracy Bookshelf: Statistics & Implications from Ten Years’ Deployment… & Counting

What a difference a decade makes! When the definitive histories of how China became a great sea power in the 21st century are written, an important chapter will surely be devoted to a development that reached the ten-year mark today: China’s deployment of 31-and-counting naval task forces to the Gulf of Aden since 26 December 2008.

A major breakthrough at the time, this mission was originally prompted by growing Chinese concerns about the impact of piracy around the Horn of Africa on commercial shipping and the inability of stopgap measures to solve the problem. In very short order, China’s navy made extensive preparations and began “learning by doing” in an unforgiving new environment, often before the eyes of the world.

By 24 December 2018, the PLAN had sent 31 escort fleets, 100 ships, 67 shipboard helicopters, and more than 26,000 personnel to escort more than 6,600 PRC and foreign ships—in roughly equal proportion. It “successfully rescued and escorted more than 70 Chinese and foreign ships in distress and captured three pirates.” A decade into this effort, however, the most significant and enduring impact is not on seaborne commerce but rather on the experience and capabilities of China’s navy.

As in so many other areas, there is simply “no substitute for experience,” and the PLA Navy (PLAN) has used the Gulf of Aden mission as an invaluable laboratory, training ground, and “textbook”-writing opportunity. Deployments have offered a springboard for evacuating civilians from Libya and Yemen, escorting Syrian chemical weapons to their destruction, drilling and interacting with foreign navies, and calling on numerous ports throughout the Indian Ocean Region and beyond. In one of the surest signs that the benefits for China include far more than simply the defense of merchant ships from piracy, various PLAN submarines have accompanied some of the more recent task forces.

China already has the world’s largest navy by number of ships. As it ranges increasingly into the “far seas,” led increasingly by officers with experience gained in the Gulf of Aden, the anti-piracy deployments of the past decade will increasingly be recognized as a major breakthrough that has helped China develop and sustain a true blue water navy for the first time in its long history.


Xue Chengqing and Wu Kangci, “China’s 31st Naval Escort Taskforce Accomplishes its First Mission,” China Military Online, 3 January 2019.

BEIJING, Jan. 3 (ChinaMil) — Around 12 o’clock on January 2nd, 2019 (local time), the 31st Chinese naval escort taskforce successfully escorted three foreign ships including the “Hexu Huanle” into the safe zones in western Gulf of Aden.

This is the first time that the 31st escort taskforce has conducted escort mission independently. They expelled two groups of suspected pirate boats during the mission.

On December 31st, 2018, the three foreign ships arrived at the rendezvous in eastern Gulf of Aden. Afterwards, they sailed to the west under the escort of the guided-missile frigate Xuchang (Hull 536) and the comprehensive supply ship Luomahu (Hull 964).

At 4:24 am of January 1st, 2019 (local time), a suspicious object was identified by radar operator on the guided-missile frigate Xuchang (Hull 536), which turned out to be pirate boats consisting one fishing boat and two skiffs detected by the ship-borne infrared system of Xuchang. While as the suspected pirate boats approached closer, the guided-missile frigate Xuchang fired signal flares to warn them and successfully drove them away.

On the early morning of January 2, a group of suspected pirate boats sailed towards the escort taskforce at high speeds. The escort taskforce first used searchlights and sounded beam to warn them. They then fired signal flares since the warning was ignored by the pirate boats. Finally, the suspected pirate boats turned around and left.


Guo Yuandan, “Chinese Navy Sees Broadened Horizon, Enhanced Ability through 10-Year Escort Missions,” Global Times, 30 December 2018.

  • Logistics bases at ports of call are necessary for long escort missions, relieving stress on ships and crew
  • Anti-piracy operations overseas have earned respect for the Chinese navy
  • The Chinese navy has built up brotherhood with foreign navies during escort missions.

A Chinese three-ship fleet, consisting of destroyer Wuhan and Haikou, and the supply ship Weishanhu, in an anti-piracy mission at the Gulf of Aden in April 2009. The Chinese Navy began escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia in December 2008. In the past 10 years, the Chinese Navy has sent out 26,000 officers and soldiers, escorted 6,595 ships and successfully rescued or aided more than 60 Chinese and foreign ships.

On December 26, 2008, a three-ship fleet of the Chinese navy set sail from a port in Sanya of China’s southernmost Hainan Province for its first overseas deployment. The fleet joined in the multinational patrols of the Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia. The Navy’s DDG-171 Haikou destroyer, together with another destroyer, DDG-169 Wuhan, achieved many breakthroughs and firsts.

The three-ship fleet marked the beginning of many escort missions by the Chinese navy over the past 10 years. This was China’s first time to deploy its naval force to safeguard its national interests, to fulfill its humanitarian obligations, and protect its main transport routes on the high seas.

Ten years later, official data shows the great achievements of the Chinese navy on the high seas. As of December 24, 2018, the Chinese navy has sent 31 escort fleets, 100 ships, 67 shipboard helicopters and more than 26,000 soldiers to escort more than 6,600 Chinese and foreign ships over the past decade. They successfully rescued and escorted more than 70 Chinese and foreign ships in distress and captured three pirates.

Use of force

The size and scale of the Chinese navy escort teams has been constantly adjusted over the past decade. Between December 2008 and February 2012, the East China Sea Fleet and South China Sea Fleet took turns in going on escort missions. The North China Sea Fleet was not part of this rotation, until February 2012.

In the early stages of the escort missions, a couple of fleet formations had to carry out two voyages at short intervals. The 530 Xuzhou was part of these fleet formations. The then captain of the 530 Xuzhou told the Global Times that the quick turnaround reflected a shortage of ships available for escort missions. One depot ship had to serve two consecutive escort fleets formations during that time.

“The number of destroyers in the Chinese navy was limited, as was the number of new missile frigates capable of conducting escort missions on the high seas. Therefore, in 2010, China sent an amphibious transport dock to replenish destroyers and frigates. This was necessary to relieve the pressure on the navy,” Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times.

He suggests that many shortcomings appeared in the first years, such as the ability of various ships to withstand the test of special sea conditions, high temperatures, high humidity and high salinity.

Logistics bases

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) support base in Djibouti was established on July 11, 2017. This was China’s first overseas support base, attracting wide attention from the international community, who widely interpreted it as representing a change in China’s foreign policy.

The long-term voyage of the first escort group without landing at a port for a rest set a new record for continuous voyage time and mileage. In an interview, the crew told the Global Times that they most wanted fresh fruit and vegetables when they returned to land in 2009.

Retired navy captain Tian Shichen told the Global Times that escort operations involve the application of international law in terms of their area of action, objects of action, and coordinating partners. The United Nations has a special legal group for all participating countries to discuss issues related to Somali pirates. China is part of this group.

China is still groping to adapt to international rules. A long voyage without a rest is not in line with international rules and common practice, and can wear down or even harm the crew and machinery on board a warship.

Given the feedback from its first escort missions, the Chinese navy started to explore a more efficient way to guarantee its logistic support during trips overseas.

At the beginning, escort fleets mainly relied on an accompanying supply ship for logistical support. This gradually changed to getting support mainly from foreign ports along the way, which greatly reduced the navy’s dependence on integrated supply ships.

An insider told the Global Times that commercial berths rented for restocking at port often give only limited time for resupplying. As soon as a ship is refreshed, it has to leave the port. This cannot guarantee the sailors’ rest.

As a result, China needed to build its own logistics bases at ports of call. At the Djibouti logistics support base, the Chinese navy can get more efficient and timely replenishment, maintain equipment and allow the crew to rest.

Anti-piracy overseas

In 2010, the 530 Xuzhou was deployed to assist in the response to a suspected pirate attack on Chinese-flagged cargo ship M/V Tai An Kou. After an intense battle, the special force rescued all 21 crew members from the attacked ship the next day.

Years later, the then captain of the 530 Xuzhou described the operation as “a military operation organized under the close and critical eyes of a US ship.”

When the Chinese ship arrived in the area, a US warship was already cruising nearby. During the rescue, the US was around “to see if the Chinese navy was professional in the rescue operation,” said the captain. He believes that the Chinese warship performed well in the use of force and timely response.

The 530 Xuzhou also executed an operation in the Gulf of Aden to help evacuate Chinese nationals from Libya. Facing multiple unknown factors, this is the first time the Chinese navy went abroad to participate in the evacuation of overseas Chinese. It marked a new milestone for China’s non-war military operations.

Due to its success in many major tasks, the Central Military Commission awarded the Xuzhou the first-class merit honor.

At each handover ceremony, the commanders of the previous convoy formation normally introduce the latest news and updated information as well as the dynamic condition of pirates in the mission area.

During the escort period, the formation keeps detailed records of tactics and countermeasures. This information is passed on and kept updated as a textbook.

Ten years of escort missions have been a test for the Chinese navy. In the past decade, the Chinese navy has improved its escort and anti-piracy capabilities, enabling it to better fulfill its international obligations, said Zhang Junshe. 

Escort ships have been able to complete anti-piracy missions five times faster over the past decade. Shipborne helicopters have been able to scramble three times faster, and special operations personnel have been able to deploy twice as quickly.

More open-minded

More than 40 escort vessels from some 20 countries gather in the Gulf of Aden. Instead of adopting a closed-minded attitude, the Chinese navy has chosen to communicate with navies of other countries and let them know more about the Chinese vessels.

During its first convoy, the Chinese navy communicated with foreign navies before the escort operation in the Gulf of Aden, including reciprocal visits and joint drills and training.

Many new records were set during the mission, such as the first joint escort and joint drill with foreign navies.

The captain of the 530 Xuzhou said sailors were nervous in the beginning of the operation and diffident when they first communicated with foreign navies. 

“It was out of my expectation that we would become more and more confident when we arrived at the mission zone, and we rubbed elbows on daily basis.” 

“Many foreign naval vessels wanted to join in the Chinese convoy, which means that they trusted in the Chinese navy, and this helped to boost our soldiers’ confidence,” he said.

During reciprocal visits with vessels from NATO, the EU and the US off the coast, the helicopters of the foreign military would land on the deck of Chinese vessels, and they could board Chinese vessels by boat without prior arrangement after authorization.

The reciprocal visits have not only enhanced friendship, but also served as a window allowing foreign militaries to know more about the Chinese military.

Zhang Junshe believes that the Chinese sailors’ horizons have been broadened and their overall abilities have been enhanced during the escort missions, joint drills and training, reciprocal on-board visits and visits to foreign countries during and after the escort missions over the past decade.

Unmet goal

China suggested a zoned escorting system in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. This means that navies convoy all vessels passing through their patrol zone.

However, the proposal was not brought into reality, which has been the biggest regret of Tian Shichen, an advisor on naval escort  missions who is responsible for both domestic and international contact and coordination in the military sector.

On October 22, 2009, Qian Lihua, former head of the foreign affairs office of China’s Ministry of National Defense, suggested zoned escort cooperation among more than 20 countries in the waters off Somalia including China, the EU countries, Brazil and South Korea, to improve efficiency and avoid fighting alone. The suggestion has been embraced by many countries.

According to Tian, the suggestion proposed by China is a perfect one to optimize international escort methods, properly collect and distribute escort forces and enhance efficiency.

On November 6, 2009, an international coordination conference on naval escort missions in the Gulf of Aden was held in Beijing with the participation of deputies from Russia, India, the EU and the NATO.

Tian recalled that the conference reached an agreement on the suggestion. However, he said it is a pity that the suggestion was not brought into reality.

Tian believes that the implementation of zoned escorting cooperation would become a milestone because it would enhance the Chinese navy’s ability in organizing international military events. In addition, it would meaningfully showcase China’s national image and make China’s voice heard in the international arena.

Newspaper headline: STEAMING AHEAD


郭媛丹, “中国海军解救商船 美军舰以挑剔目光在旁围观,” 环球时报, 27 December 2018.

【环球时报记者 郭媛丹】编者按:10年前的12月26日,由中国海军当时最先进驱逐舰武汉舰、海口舰以及综合补给舰微山湖舰组成的护航编队从三亚某军港基地解缆,奔赴陌生的亚丁湾、索马里海域执行护航任务。中国首次护航行动时,已有16个国家的海军在那里联合巡逻,英国广播公司、美国《华盛顿邮报》等西方媒体当时报道说,“中国军舰赴亚丁湾师出有名”“这是中国向‘蓝水海军’迈出决定性一步”。10年来,中国海军官兵在这一非战争军事行动中完成一次又一次“零的突破”,开启中国海军从“黄水”驶向“蓝水”的航程。《环球时报》记者近日采访护航亲历者及相关专家,梳理10年护航为中国海军“犁”开的发展之路。







China’s Escort Capability Significantly Improved after 10 Years of Escort Missions,” People’s Daily Online, 26 December 2018.

The Chinese military has conducted over 1,190 escort missions, safeguarding the voyages of more than 6,600 merchant ships from China and abroad in the Gulf of Aden since the first escort fleet was dispatched 10 years ago, showing significant progress in the nation’s naval escort capability, experts said.

Since December 26, 2008, the day when China sent its first escort fleet, consisting of two destroyers and one auxiliary ship, Chinese naval forces have dispatched a total of more than 26,000 soldiers and officers overseas.

China’s decision to send naval forces to the area came in response to the UN’s call to launch escort missions in the Gulf of Aden, which is one of the world’s busiest sea passages, but also a notorious area for pirates.

In 2008 alone, more than 30 ships were hijacked and over 600 crew members taken hostage.

The first Chinese escort fleet received its first emergency call from a Greek merchant ship under siege by pirates.

Over the years, Chinese forces have rescued or escorted more than 70 domestic and international ships under emergency situations, casting out some 3,000 pirate vessels.

“For the naval escort fleets, it’s an unprecedented task to conduct anti-piracy escort missions on the high seas. It’s a challenge for all the soldiers and officers who must work under a completely new environment and to deploy forces to combat piracy,” naval expert Zhang Junshe commented.

The deployment of Chinese naval forces for anti-piracy missions has sped up by a factor of five over the past decade and the time required for shipborne helicopters has been shortened by three times, according to Zhang.

In addition to escorting merchant ships, the escort fleets also took up various others missions, including escorting the transportation of the seventh batch of chemical weapons from Syria in September 2013. In December 2014, the fleets sent more than 600 tonnes of fresh water to the capital of Maldives when the city suffered from fresh water shortage.

In March 2015, a Chinese escort fleet undertook the nation’s first evacuation of Chinese nationals overseas. More than 600 Chinese nationals and another 200 citizens from 15 countries and regions were successfully evacuated from Yemen.

In March 2011, the Chinese military for the first time escorted an evacuation ship carrying more than 2,000 Chinese nationals from Syria.

China’s high-sea military logistics support has developed into a more comprehensive model with multiple logistic support services, including remote technical support and overseas centralized maintenance. The support model is becoming more mature, with better efficiency, a China Central Television report said.

“As Chinese nationals travel abroad for sight-seeing and trade, overseas interests are becoming increasingly important to national interests. Therefore, the military’s escort missions serve as an important guarantee for safe sea passage and overseas interests,” Zhang noted.


Zhang Hailong, Lai Yonglei and Xue Chengqing, “China’s 30th and 31st Naval Escort Taskforces Join Forces in Gulf of Aden,” China Military Online, 26 December 2018.

GULF OF ADEN, Dec. 26 (ChinaMil) — On the morning of December 24, 2018 (local time), the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s 31st escort taskforce arrived in the waters at the eastern Gulf of Aden as scheduled after an uninterrupted voyage of 15 days and nights, where it met the 30th escort taskforce.

Since it arrived in the Gulf of Aden on September 1, the 30th Chinese naval escort taskforce has escorted 59 merchant ships in 31 batches over the past four months, effectively safeguarding the maritime transport line.

The 31st Chinese naval escort taskforce set sail on December 9 from the port city of Zhanjiang in south China’s Guangdong Province. The taskforce is composed of the amphibious dock landing ship Kunlunshan (Hull 998), the guided-missile frigate Xuchang (Hull 536) and the comprehensive supply ship Luomahu (Hull 964).

After their joint escort mission, the two taskforces will conduct a mission handover ceremony. The 31st Chinese naval escort taskforce will then replace its predecessor on escort missions in the Gulf of Aden.

*** *** ***


Huang Panyue, ed.; Bei Guo Fang Wu, “PLA Navy Ends Era of ‘Supply-Ship Troika’ in its Escort Mission,” China Military Online, 9 August 2018.

The 30th Chinese naval escort taskforce set sail on August 6 from a naval port in Qingdao of east China’s Shandong Province to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia for an escort mission.

The escort taskforce comprises the Type-054A guided-missile frigates Wuhu (Hull 539) and Handan (Hull 579) as well as the comprehensive supply ship Dongpinghu (Hull 960).

More than a piece of news, this is a regular report issued every four months and the 30th of its kind. In 2018, the 10th year of its escort mission, the Chinese navy is reviewing its past hardship and current progress.

The comprehensive supply ship Dongpinghu (Hull 960) sets sail from a naval port in Qingdao of China’s Shandong Province to the Gulf of Aden.

In the past 10 years, the 30 Chinese naval escort taskforces dispatched to the Gulf of Aden were all composed of two battleships and one supply ship. The Chinese PLA Navy sent so many new warships, especially frigates, to the Gulf of Aden that even the most fervent military enthusiasts became indifferent to the choice of warships.

People might still remember that, in the first four and a half years of the escort mission in the Gulf of Aden, the battleships were replaced one group after another, while the supply ships were always chosen among Weishanhu (Hull 887), Qiandaohu (Hull 886), and Qinghaihu (Hull 885). Meaning that, the battleships withdrew after only one term of mission, while the supply ships had to sustain two terms of mission.

During the era of the “supply-ship troika”, the supply ship Qinghaihu (Hull 885) is an old one rebuilt after being introduced from abroad.

Therefore, in those four and a half years, excluding regular maintenance, the three largest supply ships of the Chinese Navy at that time were always conducting escort missions. Although they provided much experience for the later improvement of supply ships of the same types, they served too many escort missions.

On August 8, 2013, the era of the “supply-ship troika” was finally ended by the supply ship Taihu (Hull 889), the first vessel of the Type-903A comprehensive supply ship series.

As China’s ship-building industry has been making rapid progress in recent years, the number of warship types has also increased, including combat support ships that are essential among the ocean-going fleets.

Now there are many supply ships available to take turns serving in the escort missions. The comprehensive supply ship Dongpinghu (Hull 960) serves only one term at a time, with its most recent trip in 2016.

The Taihu (Hull 889), one of China’s most advanced Type 903A supply ships, ends the era of the “supply-ship troika” for the Chinese Navy.

Both Dongpinghu (Hull 960) and Taihu (Hull 889) are Type-903A comprehensive supply ships, updated from the Type-903 series with only two of its kind –Weishanhu (Hull 887) and Qiandaohu (Hull 886).

Supply ships of the Type-903A series have had their displacement increased from 20,000 to 25,000 tons. What’s more, they are able to carry 10,500 tons of vessel/aviation fuel, 250 tons of fresh water, and 680 tons of ammunitions.

Supply ships of the Type-903A series have two sets of liquid material replenishment systems, one set of solid material replenishment system, large cranes on both sides at the mid-ship section, four small boats, a Z-8 ship-borne helicopter, and four pieces of 37mm twin-barreled ship-board artillery systems for self-defense.

The Type-903 series supply ships have greatly improved their replenishment efficiency and are able to conduct alongside, astern, vertical, and skin-to-skin connected replenishment-at-sea at the same time. Therefore, they can carry out underway replenishment missions under more complicated conditions.

The Type-901 comprehensive supply ship Hulunhu (Hull 965) is known as the “nanny of aircraft carriers”.

According to reports, China has completed ten Type-903 supply ships, with one still under construction. Currently, ships of the Type-903 series are not the Chinese Navy’s most advanced supply ships any more. They are no match for the Type-901 series of large scale supply ships that came into service on September 1, 2017.

As seen in previous reports, China has been consistently improving its supply ship building technology. It is believed that, as the Chinese supply ships continue to increase in number and enhance in quality, the Chinese Navy’s combat capability will be further improved.

Disclaimer: The author is a reporter with the Bei Guo Fang Wu. The article is translated from Chinese into English by the China Military online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author from the Bei Guo Fang Wu and do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn. Chinamil.com.cn does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.


Analysis of the latest PLAN supply ships and related logistical support:

Andrew S. Erickson and Capt. Christopher P. Carlson, USNR (Ret.), “Sustained Support: the PLAN Evolves its Expeditionary Logistics Strategy,” Jane’s Navy International, 9 March 2016.


As China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy seeks to support sustained operations at distance, Andrew Erickson and Christopher Carlson discuss its strategy and tools for supporting this new international presence

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has stepped out onto the international scene in recent years with sustained deployments of counter-piracy escort task groups to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. These deployments, numbering 22 and counting since 26 December 2008, have enabled the PLAN to sustain presence around the Horn of Africa and even deploy onwards into the Mediterranean Sea and beyond. China is now looking to bolster this strategic presence in both scope and scale by investing in supply ships, using Chinese commercial shipping lines, and exploiting its emerging access to commercial ports around the world as it seeks to provide logistics support to deployed naval vessels.

China has never had a sustained overseas presence or foreign basing footprint. Yet it is building a fleet that will enable the PLAN to deploy not only at high intensity in China’s immediate periphery (‘Near Seas’, including the Yellow, East, and South China seas), but also with gradually increasing tempo and regularity throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean (‘Far Seas’ operations). This ongoing effort, if Beijing seeks for it to become more continuous in nature, will require greater power projection capabilities, as well as enhanced logistics support, and maybe even a long-term presence on foreign soil.

Drawing on the US Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) traditional definition of power projection (as employed in Joint Publication 1-02, Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as amended through 2013) – to rapidly and effectively deploy and sustain forces – the foremost means of China’s power projection in both respects lies in its navy and in the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) and PLAN air forces, and in their ability to operate at distance over time. Today, as the necessary force structure to support Chinese objectives vis-à-vis the Near Seas has largely been achieved and China’s shipbuilding and aviation industries have demonstrated an ability to produce advanced ships and aircraft, an effort is under way to progressively increase the numbers of some of the more capable platforms that could be used for Far Seas operations. These include area air-defence destroyers and frigates, replenishment vessels, and fighter aircraft – the last of which will need aircraft carriers or foreign bases to fly from. As the US Navy (USN) knows only too well, expanding bluewater presence and doing more things in more places at once requires a larger, better-supported fleet. …


Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. StrangeSix Years at Sea… and Counting: Gulf of Aden Anti-Piracy and China’s Maritime Commons Presence (Washington, DC: Jamestown Foundation/Brookings Institution Press, 2015).

Now available as a Kindle eBook!

Click here to purchase this book via Brookings Institution Press or from the Jamestown Store.

Six Years at Sea...& Counting--Gulf of Aden Anti-Piracy & China's Maritime Commons Presence

Every wave has its genesis some distance from shore. In this regard, China’s historic anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since 2008 have offered governments, researchers and pundits a rare window into Beijing’s nascent global maritime strategy. This study is one of the first attempts to comprehensively document and clarify the precise nature of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)’s maritime anti-piracy experience. It begins with an analysis of the internal drivers behind Beijing’s turn to taking on piracy beginning nearly a decade ago. Through a thorough reading of official and academic Chinese- and English-language sources, we explore geostrategic, domestic and international economic, and civilian and military institutional dynamics that drove China’s initial decision to contribute to anti-piracy off the coast of Somalia.

The book then inspects the nature and scope of the PLAN’s anti-piracy efforts, extensively cataloguing more than a score of anti-piracy escort flotillas in terms of the types of ships used, the identities of ship commanders and political leaders, foreign ports called upon, days at sea, and various other metrics. This allows us to track the operational evolution of PLAN anti-piracy operations over time, both with regard to Chinese naval and logistical lessons learned as well as trends in China’s naval diplomatic efforts attached to its anti-piracy mission.

Finally, we take stock of the broader implications of Beijing’s anti-piracy operations and find reason for measured optimism with regard to China’s role in future global maritime governance. While Beijing remains embroiled in testy military and political standoffs in East Asian waters, the atmosphere further afield is ripe for greater Chinese collaboration with the United States and other important maritime actors. If anything, China’s naval behavior further afield reflected by its anti-piracy missions remains relatively cautious and conservative, and other stakeholders would benefit from even deeper Chinese contributions in the future.

We conclude that well over six years of Chinese anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden have directly supported PLAN modernization goals and provided invaluable experience operating in distant waters. Lessons learned have spawned PLAN innovations in doctrine, operations, and international coordination. Many of the insights gleaned during deployments are applicable to security objectives closer to home; some officers enjoy promotion to important positions after returning. Anti-piracy operations have been a springboard for China to expand considerably its maritime security operations, from evacuating its citizens from Libya and Yemen to escorting Syrian chemical weapons to their destruction and participating in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. So great are the benefits to China’s global maritime presence and enhanced image at home and abroad that when Gulf of Aden anti-piracy operations finally wind down, Beijing will have to develop new means to address its burgeoning overseas interests.



Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Deep Blue Diplomacy: Soft Power and China’s Antipiracy Operations,” in Bruce A. Elleman and S. C. M. Paine, eds., Navies and Soft Power: Historical Case Studies of Naval Power and the Nonuse of Military ForceNaval War College Newport Paper 42 (June 2015), 163-79.

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Chinese Cooperation to Protect Sea-Lane Security: Antipiracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden,” in Peter A. Dutton and Ryan D. Martinson, eds., Beyond the Wall: Chinese Far Seas Operations, Naval War College China Maritime Study 13, May 2015), 33-41.

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin Strange, “China’s Global Maritime Presence: Hard and Soft Dimensions of PLAN Antipiracy Operations,” Jamestown China Brief 15.9 (1 May 2015).

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “China’s Blue Soft Power: Antipiracy, Engagement, and Image Enhancement,” Naval War College Review 68.1 (Winter 2015): 71-91.

爱立信 [Andrew Erickson], “行动中的中国海上力量–亚丁湾反海盗任务综述与展望” [Chinese Sea Power in Action: The Counter-Piracy Mission in the Gulf of Aden—Summary and Outlook], Chapter 7 in 甘浩森 [Roy Kamphausen], 赖大卫 [David Lai], and施道安 [Andrew Scobell], eds., 美军眼里的中国军队: 美国陆军战争学院研究报告 [China’s Military in the Eyes of the U.S. Military: U.S. Army War College Research Report], (Beijing: 世界知识出版社 [World Knowledge Press], 2015), 155-200.           Part 1           Part 2           Volume Information

艾瑞克森 [Andrew S. Erickson] 博士、史崔奇 [Austin M. Strange] 博士生; 譯者: 翟文中 (海軍備役上校) [Translation by Capt. CHAI Wen-Chung, ROC-N (Ret.)], “中國大陸的遠洋軟實力 打擊海盜、國際交往與形象提升(上)” [Mainland China’s Use of Blue Water Soft Power to Combat Piracy, Engage in International Exchanges, and Enhance its Image: Part 1 of 2], 中國大陸軍力 [Defense Technology Monthly] 3 (2015): 64-71.

艾瑞克森 [Andrew S. Erickson] 博士、史崔奇 [Austin M. Strange] 博士生; 譯者: 翟文中 (海軍備役上校) [Translation by Capt. CHAI Wen-Chung, ROC-N (Ret.)], “中國大陸的遠洋軟實力 打擊海盜、國際交往與形象提升(下)” [Mainland China’s Use of Blue Water Soft Power to Combat Piracy, Engage in International Exchanges, and Enhance its Image: Part 2 of 2], 中國大陸軍力 [Defense Technology Monthly] 4 (2015): 42-49.

Andrew Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “China’s Anti-Piracy Mission in the Gulf of Aden: Implications for Anti-Piracy in the South China Sea,” in Wu Shicun and Zou Keyuan, eds., Non-Traditional Security Issues and the South China Sea: Shaping a New Framework for Cooperation (London: Ashgate, 2014), 169-204.     Part 1          Part 2          Volume Information

Andrew S. Erickson, “No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden,” Eight Bells Book Lecture, Naval War College Museum, Newport, RI, 27 February 2014.

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

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Parallel Progress, Positive Potential: Sino-American Cooperation to Further Sea Lane Security in the Gulf of Aden,” China International Strategy Review 2013 (2013): 479-501.          Online Version

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Piracy’s Next Frontier: A Role for China in Gulf of Guinea Security?” The National Interest, 10 December 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, No Substitute for Experience: Chinese Anti-Piracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden, Naval War College CMSI China Maritime Study 10 (November 2013).

Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange, “China and the International Antipiracy Effort,” The Diplomat, 1 November 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Pragmatic Partners, the Unsung Story of U.S.-China Anti-Piracy Coordination,” Guest Blog Post for Elizabeth C. Economy, Asia Unbound, Council on Foreign Relations, 24 October 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Sunk Costs: China and the Pirates,” The Diplomat, 26 September 2013.

Andrew S. Erickson and Austin M. Strange, “Learning the Ropes in Blue Water: The Chinese Navy’s Gulf of Aden Deployments Have Borne Worthwhile Lessons in Far-Seas Operations—Lessons that Go Beyond the Antipiracy Mission,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 139.4 (April 2013): 34-38.

Andrew Erickson and Austin Strange, “‘Selfish Superpower’ No Longer? China’s Anti-Piracy Activities and 21st-Century Global Maritime Governance,” Harvard Asia Quarterly, 14.1/2 (Spring/Summer 2012): 92-102.

Andrew S. Erickson, “积极保护航海安全: 中国在亚丁弯海域打击海盗的贡献” [Actively Safeguarding Sea Lane Security: China’s Contribution to Fighting Piracy in the Gulf of Aden],  in 中国孙子兵法研究会 [China Research Society on Sun Tzu’s Art of War], 孙子兵法与和谐世界–第八届孙子兵法国际研讨会论文集 [Sun Tzu’s Art of War and a Harmonious World—Collected Papers from the 8th International  Symposium on Sun Tzu’s Art of War] (Beijing: 军事科学出版社 [Military Science Press], 2010), 616-21.

Andrew S. Erickson, “Chinese Sea Power in Action: the Counter-Piracy Mission in the Gulf of Aden and Beyond,” in Roy Kamphausen, David Lai, and Andrew Scobell, eds., The PLA at Home and Abroad: Assessing the Operational Capabilities of China’s Military (Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College and National Bureau of Asian Research, July 2010), 295-376.

Andrew S. Erickson and Justin D. Mikolay, “Welcome China to the Fight Against Pirates,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 135.3 (March 2009): 34-41.