China’s Maritime Ambitions
China’s ambition for maritime supremacy in the South Asian region can be seen in a military website6 dated 26 February 2009. In the report titled “The Indian Ocean has become China’s ‘Sea of Destiny’,” the views are stated thus: On 17 February 2009, the Philippines showed in its “Base Line Law” the inclusion of the Huangyan Islands (claimed by China) into its own territory. On 18 February the Indian Naval Admiral Mehta announced that India would launch its first indigenously manufactured aircraft carrier in 2011.
On 21 February a destroyer named “Guangzhou” of the Chinese navy set sail for Pakistan to join the fleet exercises named “Peace-09”. The 052-B class destroyer of the Chinese navy performing a mission in the waters of Indian Ocean was increased from one to two. The seriousness behind such facts remain that despite China’s having territorial waters of 3 million square kilometres, and more than 80 percent of ocean shipping required to transport energy resources, China is still short of promulgating its national maritime strategy.
“¦ China stated that it aspires to become a naval superpower. For this it should seek a point of penetration in its quest for a maritime strategy. From the Persian Gulf, passing through the northern Arabian Sea and stretching up to Myanmar, the vast expanse of water of the Indian Ocean should become one of the key points of the Chinese maritime strategy.
In its argument for getting a point of breakthrough in maritime strategy, China stated that it aspires to become a naval superpower. For this China ought to move out of its traditional concepts and should seek a point of penetration in its quest for a maritime strategy. From the Persian Gulf, passing through the northern Arabian Sea and stretching up to Myanmar, the vast expanse of water of the Indian Ocean should become one of the key points of the Chinese maritime strategy.
While justifying the great importance of the Indian Ocean to China, the report states that “the ocean to the southeast of China is being firmly controlled by a maritime power far more formidable than us. This navy has built up and has been closely maintaining security cooperation with most of the Southeast Asian nations. In fact such cooperation has been an endorsement by certain Southeast Asian nations to capitalize upon China’s strategic opportunities while nibbling upon our maritime rights. In Southeast Asia, China’s advocacy of maritime rights in terms of deeds and words is either faced with vehement opposition from certain countries, or evokes widespread suspicion.
The present maritime power of China is not in a practical position to challenge the global maritime hegemon and its allies. However, in the waters of Indian Ocean where feudal lords vie for the throne, China has advantages to demonstrate its maritime ambition. China does not have any territorial claim in the Indian Ocean, nor has it any historic grievance. Apart from the South Asian maritime power that wholeheartedly aspires to become the hegemon of Indian Ocean—no other South Asian nation opposes China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean. Here China hints at India and its geopolitical aspirations in the region.
The report continues saying that “more importantly Indian Ocean has a far-reaching influence on the future development of China. To some extent it has already become China’s ‘Sea of Destiny’. It is needless to add that there is a correlation between the unhindered thoroughfare in the Indian Ocean and the security of China’s energy resources. The place where China’s petroleum lifeline can be severed is not only the Strait of Malacca.
China is in the process of giving shape to its ambitious plan of opening up the western regions. But the northwestern hinterland is several thousand kilometres away from the southeastern coastal regions. The cost of land transport is an important element that would affect the western regions turning global. Instead, entering the Indian Ocean through Pakistan in the northwest and through Myanmar in the southwest can separately reduce the land communication route by several thousand or several hundred kilometres.
“China’s maritime strategy cannot be sailing from one sea to another. It ought to be from land to sea, to approach the ocean with the help of a land bridge. China should rely upon the strength of its traditional partners in South Asia, and lose no time in intensifying its campaign in the Indian Ocean. A spirit of bilateral and regional cooperation would be required instead of adopting antagonistic measures. China should expand its area of interests and benefits into the Indian Ocean over the two land bridges in the northwest and southwest. And also find a single or multiple permanent anchorage that could provide strategic support.”