Robert D. Kaplan (Washington Post): While the U.S. is distracted, China develops sea power

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The greatest geopolitical development that has occurred largely beneath the radar of our Middle East-focused media over the past decade has been the rise of Chinese sea power. This is evinced by President Obama's meeting Friday about the South China Sea, where China has conducted live-fire drills and made territorial claims against various Southeast Asian countries, and the dispute over the Senkaku Islands between Japan and China in the East China Sea, the site of a recent collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japanese coast guard ships.

Whereas an island nation such as Britain goes to sea as a matter of course, a continental nation with long and contentious land borders, such as China, goes to sea as a luxury. The last time China went to sea in the manner that it is doing was in the early 15th century, when the Ming Dynasty explorer Zheng He sailed his fleets as far as the Horn of Africa. His journeys around the southern Eurasian rim ended when the Ming emperors became distracted by their land campaigns against the Mongols to the north. Despite occasional unrest among the Muslim Uighur Turks in western China, history is not likely to repeat itself. If anything, the forces of Chinese demography and corporate control are extending Chinese power beyond the country's dry-land frontiers -- into Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign Relations* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaChina

8 Comments
Posted September 26, 2010 at 5:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Cennydd13 wrote:

An excellent three-part in-depth series of articles about China’s naval heritage, with the third part describing their aspirations for naval dominance of the western Pacific, can be found in the March, April and May 2010 editions of Sea Classics magazine, to which I have subscribed for years.  For those interested in what the PLAN is doing, I recommend you read them.  Do we need to be concerned about what the PRC is doing?  The answer is “Yes, we do.”  And we also need to be concerned about the PRC’s developing naval air force.

September 26, 7:24 pm | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:

‘PLAN’ is the ‘People’s Liberation Army Navy.’

September 26, 7:25 pm | [comment link]
3. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

The real issue, and one I would give a 1-in-3 chance of triggering a major war within the decade, is the millions of illegal Chinese immigrants streaming into the Russian far east.

China used to have some of that turf, and it’s where the big deposits of strategic minerals are to be found. Russia is weakening, because their demographic are terrible, and I personally would be entirely unsurprised by a massive Chinese military adventure into the Russian far east about 2018 or so ... the year the millions of unmarriageable one-child policy males will be of prime fighting age.

Chinese joint military exercises with Russia are most probably calculated to build a solid Chinese understanding of Russian war-fighting doctrines and tactics. It is all quite likely to end in tears.

September 26, 10:38 pm | [comment link]
4. Br. Michael wrote:

Given the possibility of Chinese expansion to Europe via Russia (it’s happened before) maybe Europe would like to take a more active part in its defense and relieve us of part of the burden?  Just a thought.

September 27, 6:21 am | [comment link]
5. Ross Gill wrote:

And of course we in the West by our unquenchable thirst for cheap consumer goods are helping to fund China’s navy.

September 27, 9:43 am | [comment link]
6. Br. Michael wrote:

5, true.  Just as Japan was one of our largest trading partners in the 1930s.

September 27, 10:04 am | [comment link]
7. BlueOntario wrote:

The “media” is afraid of creating a second Cold War. But, make no mistake, China’s aspirations -in Africa, regarding Taiwan, in the Yellow and South China Seas - are becoming more often in conflict with the United States’s. And, let’s not bring up the Moon or near-earth orbit, either, shall we?

September 27, 10:16 am | [comment link]
8. Daniel wrote:

What about the surge of Christianity in China?  Try as they might, the government has not been able to control it.  Could this be God’s plan for repeating what happened in the Roman Empire circa 300 AD?

September 27, 11:03 am | [comment link]
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