Chinese Oceanic Power

By Bryan • china, military • 28 Mar 2006

Incredibly interesting piece of Chinese power projection in what initially appears to be one of the most unlikely regions…Oceania.


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will arrive in Fiji next week, where the first China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum will open on April 5. Heads of state of six island nations will travel to Fiji to meet Wen, who is bringing along more than 200 Chinese businessmen whose interests include fishing, agriculture and tourism.

China offered the Fiji government $1.7 million to sponsor the forum, and the country has received up to $13 million in grants from China so far this year, the Taipei Times reported Friday, citing a Foreign Ministry official.

‘At the end of the day it`s a matter of survival,’ said Taito Waradi, President of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who has been involved in preparations for the Chinese visit. ‘If the United States, Australia and New Zealand are not prepared to offer investment, market access and employment — and the Chinese are — political philosophy is not a major consideration.’

China is heavily engaged in fishing in the South Pacific, and is also interested in mineral deposits and forestry resources in some of the larger islands. Also important is protecting the sea lanes through which cargo ships travel from Latin American and Africa, where China has been actively making deals to secure energy and other resources to fuel its voracious economic growth.

The world abhors a power vacuum.

This brings back some thoughts on Chinese efforts at aquiring a light blue water navy (forces which are able to operate effectively and in force outside of coastal regions). For comparison, I would consider the United States the owner of the only true blue water navy, with several carrier operating European powers (UK, France, Italy) and potentially China holding light blue capable forces.

Becoming blue water capable essentially requires aircraft carriers, something which has been on the PLAN’s wish list for over twenty years. The PLAN has been the owner of a number of different aircraft carriers, all second hand and none of which has ever been utilized in any operational role. The first being bought from Australia in 1985, with the potentially powerful 65,000 ton Varyagpurchased from Ukraine in 1995 (The US Nimitz class displaces 98,000 tons), the helicopter carrier Minsk, from Russia in 1998, and another helicopter carrier, theKiev in 2000. The Russian and Ukrainian boats were purchased via private companies (with ties to the PLAN). The Minsk is now a tourist attraction in Shenzhen. The Varyag was only 70% complete and was estimated to be too badly deteriorated to be of any use military use, although recently it’s been reported that the Varyag has undergone a massive overhaul, while theKiev is destined to become another tourist attraction in Tianjin.

It is also reported that the Chinese have completed the design of their own carrier, with an airwing of 54 aircraft, which is expected to be operational by 2008 with an accompanying escort force ready by 2010.

Naturally, the addition of a carrier and associated airwings and escorts is making China’s neighbors…who are completely dependent upon free and uninterrupted sea lanes, rather edgy. Of course, for the Chinese, what better method for power projection…mobile air power coupled with stationary island airbases in Oceana.

Yet another example which parallels the Chinese rise with the American experience so many decades ago.

Unrelated annoyance of the day is those who utilize Blogspot for blogging purposes. Why? Because I can’t read Blogspot supported blogs. Blogspot is blocked from within China. I’m missing out on some tasty morsels.

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2 Responses

  1. Joel

    Very interesting. I never understood how the Chinese could put together ICBMs so quickly and yet be so lost when it came to carriers. Did they outsource their nuculear technology to the Russians or something?

    How’s there submarine program going?

  2. Most nuclear technology was aquired via the Russians.

    Also, while it sounds strange, effectively operating a carrier is probably more difficult that fielding a nuclear force.

    The USA is really the only nation with extensive large carrier experience and knowledge. This includes both the carrier battle groups, the airwings and the logistics of putting it all together.

    The Chinese are upgrading their sub force, but from what I’ve read their ‘boomers’ (ICBM equipped subs) are very noisy and quite easy for the Americans, as well as the Japanese to track.

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