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China's Naval Buildup, a Threat?

Message Dave Lefcourt
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Let's hope the American military's "concerns" over China's naval buildup remains just that and its "suspicion" of China's "intentions" don't become some "paranoid fantasy" of a new "bogeyman."

China has become "the world's leading exporter,"[1] a huge importer of oil and other resources and is no longer willing "to trust the security of the sea lanes to the Americans and its definition of its own core interests have expanded along with its economic clout."[2]

As such it is only natural (at least to this observer) that it would seek to develop a naval fleet that protects those interests. "Since December 2008, China has maintained three ships in the Gulf of Aden to contribute to international piracy patrols, the first deployment of the Chinese Navy beyond the Pacific."[3]

China's military tradition has been to maintain a "doctrine of" defending the Chinese coast. Now Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country's economy from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Sea of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas",[4] (two Chinese warships docked in Abu Dhabi in March, the first time Chinese naval vessels docked in the Middle East).

Significantly, China has increased its submarine fleet to more than "60 submarines", is building an "aircraft carrier", and "has some 260 vessels of which 75 are major war ships."[5]

In light of this buildup, the leader of the U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Robert F. Willard, in testimony before Congress last month said, "Of particular concern is that elements of China's military modernization appear designed to challenge our freedom of action in the region."[6]

To this non military ear that sounds pretty ominous particularly in light of official Pentagon policy that "does not classify China as an enemy force."[7]

Yet the same Pentagon has transferred submarines that were operating in the Atlantic to the Pacific and ordered a rotating fleet of "three to four submarines on deployments out of Guam, reviving a practice that ended with the cold war."[8]

As one reflects on the situation of the Chinese naval buildup vis-Ã -vis the American Naval hegemony all over the world the realization occurs that the world's oceans are no longer a "private pond" exclusively for American Naval power to operate in. Yet one gets no sense that China is presenting a threat or a belligerent challenge to the U.S. or its navy.

China's idea of protecting its vital, huge economic interests at sea seems like common sense policy.

Also one does not see China becoming a new "cold war" replacement for the defunct Soviet Union.

Perhaps the military mind (like the mind of the policeman) is to be naturally suspicious, that there are always "potential" enemies (and potential felons) lurking in the shadows ready to pounce (on the unsuspecting) whenever our guard is down, especially during times of general tranquility.

But let us not forget, the cold war died with the demise of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.

China (or India, Iran, Brazil et al) present no existential threats toward the U.S. or a threat to world stability.

Instability in today's world is created by and is mainly the province of the U.S., with its policy of preemptive (endless?) wars that stoke the flames of terrorism (primarily of the fundamentalist extremist Islamic variety).

China's naval buildup and presence might actually be a good thing, particularly if it can offset America's swagger and hubris and make it a better cooperating member of the "community of nations" rather than act as its imperial overlord.

[1] "Chinese Military Seeks to Extend Its Naval Power", by Edward Wong, "The New York Times", April 23, 2010.

[2] See footnote #1

[3] See footnote #1

[4] See footnote #1

[5] See footnote #1

[6] See footnote #1

[7] See footnote #1

[8] See footnote #1

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