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China: Expansion of Military Power in the Asia-Pacific. Richard A. Bitzinger. Overview. Drivers behind the expansion of Chinese military power Chinese naval developments, 2000- Implications for Southeast Asia EEZ disputes Spratlys and Paracels Disputes International maritime routes.

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  • Drivers behind the expansion of Chinese military power

  • Chinese naval developments, 2000-

  • Implications for Southeast Asia

    • EEZ disputes

    • Spratlys and Paracels Disputes

    • International maritime routes

Chinese military modernization drivers
Chinese Military Modernization: Drivers

  • China’s quest for “great power” status: attempting to gain “hard power” commensurate with growing “soft power” (economic, cultural)

  • Create a sustainable expeditionary naval force

    • Taiwan contingency: isolate island, invade and occupy (if necessary), be capable of providing anti-access/area denial (to U.S. forces seeking to come to Taiwan’s defense)

    • Protect trade routes

    • Press territorial and EEZ claims in East and South China Seas

Pla navy from brown to green to blue
PLA Navy: From Brown to Green to Blue

  • From coastal defense to open-ocean capabilities

    • Expand its operating perimeter to the first island chain (Japan-Taiwan-Philippines)…

    • …to the second island chain (Guam-Indonesia-Australia)

    • Eventually be able project sustainable force into the whole of the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean

Chinese defense spending
Chinese Defense Spending

  • In 2009, Chinese defense budget totaled US$70.2b

    • Not counting possible extra-budgetary funds

  • Defense spending has quintupled since 1997 (after inflation)

    • Second-highest military spender in the world (overtook Japan in 2007, UK in 2008)

  • Equipment (procurement + R&D) budget (about one-third of total spending) = ~US$23.5

    • Compared to 1997: US$3.1 billion

Pla navy 2009
PLA Navy, 2009

  • 26 destroyers

    • Inc. 4 Russian Sovremennyy-class DDGs

  • 51 frigates

  • 58 diesel-electric submarines

    • Inc. 12 Russian Kilo-class submarines

  • 8 nuclear-powered submarines

  • ~100 corvettes and FACs

  • ~27 amphibious warfare ships

Chinese naval developments 2000 09
Chinese Naval Developments, 2000-09

  • Major surface combatants:

    • 6 DDGs (Type-051C, Type-052B, Type-052C)

    • 12 FFGs (Type-053H3, Type-054, Type-054A)

    • Also acquired 2 Sovremennyy-class DDGs from Russia

  • Submarines:

    • 20 diesel-electric subs (Song-, Yuan-class)

    • 2 Type-093 SSN, 2 Type-094 SSBNs

    • Also acquired 8 Kilo-class subs from Russia

  • Expeditionary warfare:

    • Recently launched first Type-071 LPD (800 troops, two helicopters, two LCACs), could build up to 8 in this class

    • LHD-type ship also speculated


China expansion of military power in the asia pacific

New Chinese Warships



China expansion of military power in the asia pacific

New Chinese Warships, cont’d




A chinese aircraft carrier
A Chinese Aircraft Carrier?

  • Growing speculation that China will soon acquire at least one – and perhaps as many as six – aircraft carriers

    • Re-commission Varyag? (scrapped and sold to China in 2001)

    • Build indigenously designed carrier(s)?

    • Could have first carrier group by 2020

  • More than symbolic: multiple Chinese CVBGs is a new, much more aggressive maritime strategy

  • Costly, time-consuming and risky, however

A notional chinese aircraft carrier
A Notional Chinese Aircraft Carrier

  • 50,000-60,000 tons

  • Ski-jump deck, conventionally powered

  • Fly either Su-33, MiG-29, or navalized J-10 fighters

Plan aviation new attack aircraft
PLAN Aviation: New Attack Aircraft

  • Su-30MKK2 (24 a/c): multirole

  • JH-7A: antiship, ground attack

Growing chinese presence and assertiveness in southeast asia
Growing Chinese Presence – and Assertiveness – in Southeast Asia

  • Growing economic stakes involving Southeast Asian SLOCs

    • Trade

    • Energy supplies

  • Increasingly pressing regional territorial claims

    • Spratly Islands

    • Paracel Islands

    • South China Sea EEZ: oil, gas, fisheries

  • Overall, greater assertiveness in region in promoting its interests – and China has the increased military capabilities to back this up

Critical slocs
Critical SLOCs Southeast Asia

  • Malacca/Singapore, Lombak, Makkasar, Sunda straits

    • Traffic through South China Sea is 3X Suez Canal and 5X Panama Canal

  • SEA SLOCs are critical to China

    • Trade: China is increasingly dependent on trade, and 25% of the world’s trade passes through Southeast Asian waterways

    • Energy supplies: 60% of China’s oil comes through Southeast Asian SLOCs

South china sea overlapping territorial claims
South China Sea: Overlapping Territorial Claims Southeast Asia

  • Spratlys: Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan

    • 1995: China-Philippines clashed over Mischief Reef in Spratlys

    • Feb 2009: RP Congress passed “Archipelagic Baselines Act,” reiterating Philippine territorial claims in the Spratly

      • Led to chill in Sino-Filipino relations

  • Paracels: competition with Vietnam

    • 1998: China-Vietnam clashed over Johnson Reef

    • Increased Chinese naval patrols and military exercises

    • Chinese pressure on Western oil companies not to participate in offshore energy projects with Vietnam in waters claimed by China

    • Attempt to pressure Vietnam into agreeing to joint exploitation of oil and gas reserves in Paracels?

Eez enforcement
EEZ Enforcement Southeast Asia

  • EEZs in Southeast Asia often overlap and clash

    • Considerable economic interests at stake: oil, gas, fisheries (often only potential resources – still considerable unexplored territory)

    • China claims most of South China Sea

Chinese buildup in southeast asia
Chinese Buildup in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia

  • Hainan Island

    • Yulin (Sanya) naval base: greatly expanded in recent years

    • Type-052C DDGs

    • Nuclear sub base

    • JH-7A attack aircraft

  • Woody Island

    • Lengthened runway, added fuel depots

    • Capable of operating Su-30MKK fighters

  • Spratlys

String of pearls argument
“String of Pearls” Argument Southeast Asia

  • Chinese assistance in building deep-water port in Sittwe, Myanmar

  • Helping to build navy base in Gwandar, Pakistan

  • Provide PLAN with base access through the littorals of the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf

China increasing resort to force
China: Increasing Resort to Force? Southeast Asia

  • Enforcement can escalate into violence

    • Chinese harassment of USNS Impeccable in South China Sea, March 2009: Beijing claimed that the Impeccable was engaged in “illegal activities” in its EEZ

    • Beijing also announced that it would send one of its largest patrol boats to protect its vessels in the Paracel and Spratly Islands and to “demonstrate Beijing’s sovereignty over China’s islands”

  • Increasing potential for South China Sea to become a zone of conflict?

    • At the very least, a more important chokepoint