China Asserts Its Naval Ambitions

Last week, warships of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sailed through what Chinese strategists call "the first island chain" that links Japan to Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia. The units from the East Sea Fleet included the imposing Sovremenny class destroyers, plus frigates and submarines. The flotilla moved through the Miyako Strait, setting off alarms in Japan, which is disputing Chinese claims to mineral wealth in the waters between the two Asian powers. The exercise took place just days after warships from the North Sea Fleet returned from what the PLAN called "confrontation exercises" in the South China Sea. Naval aviators have also been running long-range strike exercises from coastal bases displaying stealth, night flying, electronic warfare, and air refueling capabilities.

On April 27, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times ran an editorial titled "Growing Chinese navy no cause for fear" the text of which proved just the opposite. The editorial stated,

Naturally, the transformation of the Chinese navy will bring changes to the strategic pattern in East Asia and the west Pacific Ocean that has lasted for the last five decades. But the trans-formation is positive. China does not hold an intention to challenge the US in the central Pacific or engage in a military clash with Japan in close waters, though it is willing to protect its core interests at any cost.

Notice the shift from "west Pacific" where the PLAN was flexing its muscles, to the more distant "central Pacific" as the area where Beijing will not challenge the United States. Admiral Timothy Keating, when head of Pacific Command, reported that a Chinese admiral had suggested to him that "the US, take Hawaii East and we, China, will take Hawaii West and the Indian Ocean. Then you will not need to come to the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean and we will not need to go to the Eastern Pacific." Adm. Keating thought the Chinese officer was joking, but there is little humor in Beijing's ambitions.

Rear Admiral Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the PLA's National Defense University, told a group of visiting American officials April 22 that Beijing does not worry about the arms being sold to Taiwan because, "Those weapons will be ours sooner or later." Beijing remains determined to capture the democratic island and to exercise control over the South China Sea as if it were sovereign territory.

According to the Global Times editorial,

Both the US and Japan, along with many other world powers, have aggressively expanded their maritime capabilities, but they need to adjust their viewpoint when considering China's moves. The time when dominant powers enjoyed unshared "spheres of influence" around the world is over.

The purpose of China's growing navy is to provide offshore defense and to protect trade routes and Chinese citizens around the globe. It is difficult to imagine China would rely on a maritime strategic system built by the US after World War II to protect its global interests today.

The tone is that of a regime seeking to overturn the world balance of power. Thus, the editorial's conclusion that, "A growing Chinese navy is a symbol of China's peaceful rise" (emphasis added) is not very convincing.
Last week, warships of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) sailed through what Chinese strategists call "the first island chain" that links Japan to Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia. The units from the East Sea Fleet included the imposing Sovremenny class destroyers, plus frigates and submarines. The flotilla moved through the Miyako Strait, setting off alarms in Japan, which is disputing Chinese claims to mineral wealth in the waters between the two Asian powers. The exercise took place just days after warships from the North Sea Fleet returned from what the PLAN called "confrontation exercises" in the South China Sea. Naval aviators have also been running long-range strike exercises from coastal bases displaying stealth, night flying, electronic warfare, and air refueling capabilities.

On April 27, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times ran an editorial titled "Growing Chinese navy no cause for fear" the text of which proved just the opposite. The editorial stated,

Naturally, the transformation of the Chinese navy will bring changes to the strategic pattern in East Asia and the west Pacific Ocean that has lasted for the last five decades. But the trans-formation is positive. China does not hold an intention to challenge the US in the central Pacific or engage in a military clash with Japan in close waters, though it is willing to protect its core interests at any cost.

Notice the shift from "west Pacific" where the PLAN was flexing its muscles, to the more distant "central Pacific" as the area where Beijing will not challenge the United States. Admiral Timothy Keating, when head of Pacific Command, reported that a Chinese admiral had suggested to him that "the US, take Hawaii East and we, China, will take Hawaii West and the Indian Ocean. Then you will not need to come to the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean and we will not need to go to the Eastern Pacific." Adm. Keating thought the Chinese officer was joking, but there is little humor in Beijing's ambitions.

Rear Admiral Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the PLA's National Defense University, told a group of visiting American officials April 22 that Beijing does not worry about the arms being sold to Taiwan because, "Those weapons will be ours sooner or later." Beijing remains determined to capture the democratic island and to exercise control over the South China Sea as if it were sovereign territory.

According to the Global Times editorial,

Both the US and Japan, along with many other world powers, have aggressively expanded their maritime capabilities, but they need to adjust their viewpoint when considering China's moves. The time when dominant powers enjoyed unshared "spheres of influence" around the world is over.

The purpose of China's growing navy is to provide offshore defense and to protect trade routes and Chinese citizens around the globe. It is difficult to imagine China would rely on a maritime strategic system built by the US after World War II to protect its global interests today.

The tone is that of a regime seeking to overturn the world balance of power. Thus, the editorial's conclusion that, "A growing Chinese navy is a symbol of China's peaceful rise" (emphasis added) is not very convincing.

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