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Tadae Takubo

【#319】China’s Pursuit of Great Maritime Power Seen in Indian Ocean as Well

Tadae Takubo / 2015.08.05 (Wed)

August 3, 2015

     It may be fine that experts are respected at Japanese academic societies, think tanks and media organizations like newspapers. But some experts might have failed to watch the whole picture while deepening their research into specific regions or countries. When China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea was reported, the South China Sea became popular. As China's platform construction in the East China Sea was reported, people shifted their attention to the East China Sea. China has been steadily "building a great maritime power" in all ocean areas as clarified in a political report to the National Congress of the Communist Party in 2012. It has been aggressively accumulating achievements to this end.

Indian response to China's naval presence
     China has established a "string of pearls" in the Indian Ocean, building naval facilities in Sittwe of Myanmar, Chittagong of Bangladesh, Hambantota of Sri Lanka and Gwadar of Pakistan. A line linking these facilities amounts to a maritime Silk Road that would extend into the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea and join the ground Silk Road Belt under President Xi Jinping's dual Silk Road initiatives called the "One Belt, One Road" strategy.
     Indian mass media are nervous about China's growing naval presence. On June 24, The Japan Times carried an important commentary titled "China's Indian Ocean Strategy" by Brahma Chellaney, an Indian geopolitical scientist and a friend of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. In the beginning of the commentary, Chellaney pointed out that two Chinese naval submarines recently docked at Sri Lanka's Colombo port, while a Chinese Yuan-class submarine showed up at the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
     As reported already, China has built a 2,400-kilometer pipeline from the southern Myanmar port city of Kyaukpyu to Chongqing to transport oil from the Middle East while bypassing the Malacca Straits. Also indicating China's strategic plan to reduce the Malacca Strait risks is President Xi's announcement to invest and lend $45 billion in a 3,000-kilometer economic corridor to link Pakistan's Gwadar to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. But Pakistan's chronic political unrest is a risk for China. In April, Chinese President Xi visited Islamabad and reaffirmed China’s further enhancement of relations with Pakistan, indicating serious efforts to broker reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Pakistan-backed Afghan Taliban

What do Japanese lawmakers fear?
     How strange Japanese parliamentary discussions are on national security enhancement bills! Only a small number of ruling party lawmakers, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, talk about China’s threats. What do other lawmakers fear? Opposition camp lawmakers do not recognize any threat. In comparison, China’s strategic perspective, even though under a single-party dictatorship, covers the next 50 or 100 years and is praiseworthy.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.