China's maritime power boosted under outside pressure

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/23 22:33:39

Maritime power not for hegemony, but to benefit neighbors: expert

Employees of Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey lower an unmanned ship during an inspection mission in Sanya, Hainan Province on Monday. Photo: Xinhua

China's ambitious maritime power strategy has achieved much in the last five years and analysts argued on Monday that external provocations have played a critical role in forcing China to boost its seagoing defense capabilities.

In the past five years, China's has built aircraft carriers, a new type of destroyer and overseas ports along the route of the 21st Maritime Silk Road. The nation has constructed lighthouses and explored resources in the South China Sea as well as conducting Arctic and Antarctic scientific research.

The fundamental reason for maritime success is economic success, which has empowered the Chinese leadership to make ambitious decisions, Zhang Ye, a research fellow at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Naval Research Institute, told the Global Times on Monday.

Economic development has expanded China's overseas interests around the globe, thus providing legitimacy and motivation for Chinese policymakers to push forward the nation's maritime power strategy, explained Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2012, building China into a maritime power has become an important strategy. China has invested in this mission while external challenges and provocations have increased, the experts said.

In 2016, the South China Sea issue triggered tensions between China and some countries after former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's administration unilaterally initiated an arbitration case against China's claim. US intervention made the regional situation even more complicated.

These provocations forced China to unleash its power in the region, Zhang said. One year later, neighboring countries involved in the dispute all agreed to negotiate with China and resolve the relevant problems.

More importantly, Zhang noted, China achieved these goals without bloodshed. 

Foreign ministers from ASEAN and China approved the framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in Manila on August 6.

Responsible power

"Maritime power strategy is not just about guarding maritime sovereignty. It also covers economic development, environmental protection and providing public good to other countries," said Liu Feng, a Hainan-based expert on the South China Sea.

For instance, exploration of combustible methane hydrate ice in the South China Sea will largely promote the development of clean energy and help China contribute more to combating climate change, he said.

China has extracted more than 300,000 cubic meters of methane hydrate from the South China Sea in 60 days, breaking a world record for the amount extracted and the time taken, the People's Daily reported on July 9.

Countries including Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have all received China's assistance and investment to build modern ports along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, boosting trade and local economic development.

"This showed China's maritime power strategy is not to build maritime hegemony as it will bring cooperation and development to others rather than conflicts," Liu said.

International evacuations and anti-piracy missions conducted by the PLA Navy also "tell the world that the Chinese navy's presence will only bring public good for security," Zhang said.

"The US and Japan's China threat theory is getting less and less popular," he said.

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Newspaper headline: Sea power boosted under pressure


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