As part of a new strategy called “far sea defence” the Chinese military is seeking to project naval power well beyond the Chinese coast, from the oil ports of the West Asia to the shipping lanes of the Pacific, military officials and analysts say.
The speed with which China is building long-range capabilities has surprised foreign military officials. The strategy is a sharp break from the traditional, narrower doctrine of preparing for war over the self-governing island of Taiwan or 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 across the Indian Ocean to the Strait of Malacca and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas.
China, now the world’s leading exporter and a giant buyer of oil and other natural resources, is also no longer content to trust the security of sea lanes to the Americans. Its definition of its own core interests has expanded along with its economic clout.
Other countries have begun responding to China’s rising naval ambition.
China’s navy, though technologically inferior, has 260 warships to the US navy’s 286. The US has shifted most of its nuclear-powered attack submarines to the Pacific from the Atlantic. The US has placed China’s underwater submarine base in Hainan island under close surveillance, leading to confrontations between ships of the two countries.
Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore have been quietly acquiring more submarines, missiles and other weapons in rsponse.