China Analysis: China’s sea power – reaching out to the blue waters

China is expanding its navy in the geopolitical tradition of great powers


China has sent one of its most advanced ships – the Xuzhou missile frigate – to the Libyan coast as part of the operation to evacuate almost forty thousand of its citizens. This is the first time a Chinese Navy ship has been deployed on an active mission in the region.

China is becoming the last “great nation” to expand its navy in the grand geopolitical tradition, just as Europe’s naval capacity declines. Meanwhile, India and Korea are also sending navy ships to the Libyan coast. The status quo, of former colonial powers and the United States having a monopoly on the projection of forces, is nearing its end.

China's sea power – reaching out to the blue waters is the latest edition of China Analysis, published by ECFR and Asia Centre. It examines the rise of China’s naval power – by looking at the increasingly open debates between Chinese experts and commentators themselves.

Key themes include:

  • The ‘Malacca dilemma’ – with 80 per cent of its oil supplies coming through the Malaca Strait, how vulnerable is China to a severe energy crisis caused by that shipping route being cut off?
  • The future of Chinese aircraft carriers – where will Beijing deploy its one Soviet-era carrier, which it bought from Ukraine, and does it have the research, development and production capacities to build its own?
  • How able is China to project a “blue water” navy, beyond its maritime neighbourhood, and should it acquire bases abroad?
  • Is China correct to pursue hard naval power when maritime border disputes raise anxiety across Asia and others – like the EU – are reinventing themselves using soft power?

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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