Regular Via Meadia readers will know that the new Great Game in Asia, in contrast to its land-locked 19th century predecessor, is largely a water sport. Nowhere is the dynamic relationship between the US and China more tense and more intimate than on the high seas, owing, as this WSJ article notes, to the amphibious ambitions accompanying China’s rise:
Sixty years ago, in the throes of the Korean War, Beijing could scarcely have been further from the water. Today, however, China’s shipyards are humming and the PLA Navy (PLAN) is sustaining operations half a world away in the Gulf of Aden.
The authors highlight 12 key Chinese maritime developments to look for in the next year, and readers will recognize in them many of the key China-related issues that we have been tracking here on the blog. From the highly uncertain future of China’s economic “growth miracle” to its increasingly sophisticated technological capabilities; from its growing assertiveness in protecting its access to Middle Eastern petroleum to its expanding contributions to humanitarian and international policing initiatives; and from its tensions with its regional neighbors to its new relationships with countries around the globe, perhaps no organization in China is more representative of the opportunities, dangers, and uncertainties of China’s rise than the PLA Navy.The PLAN has the potential to play either a stabilizing or destabilizing role in the geopolitics of the 21st century. Either way, current and aspiring geostrategists should be tracking its development closely. These 12 trends are a good place to start.