Category Archives: Indo-Pacific

Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

(Published March 27, 2018  IndraStra Global http://www.indrastra.com/2018/03/Cupping-Pacific-China-s-Rising-Influence-003-04-2018-0055.html#more)

Cupping the Pacific — China’s Rising Influence

China’s Rising Influence in the Pacific through Sale of Arms

There is one aspect of the recent revolution in Hawaii which seems to have been kept out of sight, and that is the relation of the islands, not merely to our own and to European countries, but to China. How vitally important that may become in the future is evident from the great number of Chinese, relatively to the whole population, now settled in the islands…….China, however, may burst her barriers eastward as well as westward, toward the Pacific as well as toward the European Continent.

                        Alfred Thayer Mahan, Captain, United States Navy. New York, Jan. 30, 1893

 

Arms sales are always for enhancement of self-interest of the seller country, they are primarily for furtherance of own strategic and commercial interests. The strategic reasons include, widening of areas of influence vis-a-vis a perceived adversary, projection of power in the desired region, quid pro quo proposition in times of hostilities through utilisation of recipient’s military facilities and resources or for gaining political upper hand in international bodies. Arms sales are invariably never without a hidden agenda on the part of the seller. The sales are justified under the garb of strengthening self defence capabilities of the recipient or providing support against an adversary. The commercial interests include furtherance of own defence manufacturing capabilities, enhancement of the profits accrued to its own defence industries or as a quid pro quo for other products of interest from the recipient.

This article takes in to account only the certified arms sales as recorded by SIPIRI and does not detail political, social, educational or other soft-influence approaches in the Pacific region by China. The article considers towering influence of the United States in the Pacific region since the second world war as a given and hence the arms sales by the US are not discussed vis-à-vis China. Further, an attempt has been made to indicate to the rising Chinese influence in view of its sales of arms in the region so as to spur some timely corrective measures to ensure cooperative and collective freedom of the Pacific commons. The countries considered in the article comprise SE Asia and South America.

American Approach to the Pacific Ocean

The American approach to the Pacific is largely an implementation of the thoughts of Mahan detailed in his book ‘The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future’[1]. He had held forth on the importance of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) for the Pacific, stating that they should be under the American control. He foresaw that the commercial shipping from Japan and China would pass near to the Hawaii island group and thus provide America a strong position in the Pacific to safeguard its maritime interests. He had said that Hawaii forms the centre of a circle of about 2100 nm radius in the Pacific, the periphery of which touches the archipelago system of Australia- New Zealand as well as the American west coast. The power which will hold Hawaii island group, in his opinion, would over see the Pacific. It is for the simple reason that in case of hostilities the supply lines would stretch back to over 3000-4000 nm each way making such an assault against America unstainable. The United States had structured its maritime thrust in to the Pacific along a virtual ‘arrow head’ from its west coast to Hawaii on to Guam and thereafter to Taiwan. Further, the concept of Island chains was constructed utilising island groups in the north-west pacific[2] during the cold war, to contain the spread of communism by Soviet Union and China. Some distances which describe the US ~6940 nm arrowhead across the Pacific up till Taiwan are: San Francisco – Hawaii (Honolulu) ~2095nm; Hawaii (Honolulu) – Guam ~3333nm; Guam – Taiwan ~512 nm. With Hawaii and Guam as entrenched US naval bases and the fact that a warship can sail 600 nm per day at 25kts the arrowhead is well established logistically to sustain prolonged operations from the west coast of the US. The allies would also provide unstinted support in times of inevitable hostilities in the region.

Chinese Perception of the Pacific

Chinese view their seaboard frontier as seas of denied opportunities, seas where their access is perpetually under watch by inimical powers. The Chinese threat perception encompasses Japan in the north and Malacca in the south. The access to the SLOCS from the Gulf is overlooked by India right up to Malacca straits, thereafter by nations which have been under the western influence. Indian island Chain of Laccadives sits astride the important 9-degree channel SLOC and the Indian island chain of Andamans looks over the entry to Malacca straits. It may be interesting to note that Singapore and Malaysian port of Penang lie just ~1176 nm and ~807 nm from Port Blair in Andamans.

The construct of the island chains is viewed as an attempt by the Western Powers to inhibit its naval expansion to within the First Island Chain. Once China has started looking seaward it finds layers of obstruction lined up in the Pacific to dissuade it from becoming a modern Naval power. The Chinese aim in the Pacific appears to be; to overcome or pierce the island chains at their weak points by strengthening its onshore long-range missile capabilities and its naval might. Japan and Guam are considered the strongest components of the first and second Island Chains. Taiwan and Philippines are relegated to a weak component status. However, it is held that Taiwan needs to be in the Chinese fold for a strong grip on the seas.

The US-Japan-Australia-India ‘quad’ (with France in support), if and when it takes concrete shape, would definitely be taken as an attempt to thwart Chinese ambitions of attaining global power status in its envisaged multipolar world. The positioning of road/rail mobile Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles (ASBM) DF-21 D and DF-26 C in the recent past is to put a serious deterrent in place to thwart any intimidating attempt by the US Navy. It is claimed that the DF 21 D (CSS-5 Mod 5) has a range of ~1,500 km and is armed with a Manoeuvrable Re-entry Vehicle (MaRV). DF 21 D has the ability to attack large ships like the aircraft carriers. DF-26, has a claimed range of 3,000-4,000 km enough to strike Guam. It is estimated that China has command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities required for targeting ships at sea. However, ASBMs also require over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting support that can integrate target information from multiple sources. Once fully deployed the Chinese ASBM system-of-systems would be the world’s first system[3] capable of targeting a moving carrier group with long-range ballistic missiles fired from land-based mobile launchers and would pose a grave threat to the US forces and bases in the region.

China appears to be forging along a strategic trajectory in the Pacific in that it is developing its Navy to blue water capabilities, upgrading its land based ballistic missiles to target mobile assets of the adversary with conventional and nuclear warheads at great ranges, and courting countries in and across the Pacific through Arms sales to build up sympathetic logistic linkages to counter US influence. It is opined that China would keep building up its military might and its cross-Pacific network through sale of arms and/or dole of economic benefits to nations till such time that Taiwan comes firmly in its fold thereafter it could plan for making a bold move in the Pacific to challenge the US power.

Arms sales by China

Chinese arms and weapons are in demand as China has started supplying modern equipment which can meet the economic requirements of middle and lower tier countries. The arms are cheap, reasonably reliable and are supplied with access to easy term loans from Chinese banks. Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles are considered nearly as good as those offered for export by western countries. This has made China a leading arms supplier across the globe. It is understood that the guiding tenets of China’s arms export include, non-interference in internal matters of the country like its political or human rights record; perceived strengthening of the recipient’s self-defence capabilities; and bringing about regional arms balance. China also offers transfer of technology which makes countries gain a degree of self-reliance and allows development of their own defence industry. Whether the loans offered push the recipients into a debt trap or force it to part with its resources or make it pliable to extract military gains for China is yet to be seen. The fact that the importing country becomes politically indebted to China cannot be denied, even when a country is hedging or diversifying its sources of arms import, as it would definitely adopt a more benign stance where China is concerned.

The major countries where China seeks influence in the Pacific are those in SE Asia, Oceania and countries in South America.

Arms Transfer to SE Asian Countries by China

China has arms trade with seven of Southeast Asia’s countries namely Indonesia, Myanmar Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Timor-Leste.

Some of the major Arms transfers to SE Asian countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Indonesia- Surface to Air Missiles (SAM), Anti-Ship Missiles (ASM), Naval Guns, Close-in weapon system (CIWS), Anti-Aircraft Guns (AA Guns), Multi-Rocket Launchers (MRL), various Radars, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Myanmar- Frigates, various Radars, ASM, Trainer/combat aircraft, Naval Guns, Main Battle Tanks (MBT), MRL, UAV, UCAV, SAM, Transport aircraft, Fifth generation aircraft J-17, Armoured Fire Support Vehicle (AFSV), Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).

Malaysia- Offshore patrol vessels (OPV)

Thailand- Self-propelled MRL, ASM, Arty Locating Radar, SAM, Tank, Submarines, Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), Anti-ship and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) torpedoes.

Cambodia- Helicopters, Transport aircraft

Laos- Transport and light aircraft

Timor-Leste- Patrol aircraft

As far as Philippines is concerned, China has recently donated 3000 Assault rifles for tackling the drug mafia.

Interests in Oceania

 ‘China is not just filling a political vacuum created by Western neglect…. [i]t is incorporating the Pacific islands into its broader quest to become a major Asia-pacific power with a long-term goal to replace the US as the preeminent power in the Pacific Ocean’.

John Henderson and Benjamin Reilly, 2003[4]

Among the Pacific rim countries, Chinese relations with Australia and New Zealand have been very good traditionally, however, there has been a turbulence with respect to Australia in the recent past. Its relations with Tonga have raised eyebrows in the neighbourhood since it has a population of only 300-400 Chinese people and offers practically no economic benefits apart from its vast unexplored EEZ and fishery resources.

A word about maritime Tonga would not be out of place here. Tonga has a settlement history of over 3000 years based upon the discovery of Lapita pottery fragments on the islands. Lapita people are now supposed to be the ancestors of the Polynesian people. The Lapita people were considered to be proficient sailors and expert navigators.  The Polynesian people succeeding Lapita settlers were great sailors and sea warriors. Tongans also continued the seafarers’ legacy and excelled in building large bi-hulled, 20-30-meter-long, Kalia sailing crafts. The structure of the Kalia was unique in that it had one larger and one smaller hull. Stability could be achieved with the smaller hull rising with the ocean swell and the larger hull dipping in the swell.  They were joined by a platform forming a sort of bridge. The Tongans have been crisscrossing the pacific islands regularly over the past three millennia.  In fact, it is said that no Fiji boat ventured to and from Tonga without Tongan sailors on board. The Tongans procured stone tooling from Fiji, Society islands and Samoa. Tonga had also became a trading hub during the past millennia. Tongan waters have been a witness to one of the most filmed mutinies at sea amidst its Ha’apai island group, namely “the Mutiny on the Bounty”.

Tonga, today, sits astride the SLOC from Asia to South America & Australia/New Zealand to the US and has underground sea cables running through its EEZ. It also has rights to a number of satellite launch sites[5]. The area has a large number of air strips and ports.

Apart from the economic aid, humanitarian assistance and education programs, Chinese ships make frequent goodwill visits to the islands.  China had also gifted a turbo prop aircraft to Tonga, which had ruffled feathers in New Zealand. Recently the King Tupou VI of Tonga visited China where he stated that “Tonga agrees with China on its vision to build a new type of international relations and stands ready to work with China to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”[6]

Keeping the above in view, it does not appear that Chinese largesse towards these islands is a display of its charitable and humane side. It is Tonga’s strategic location on the third island chain that could be the more likely reason for the Chinese strategic foray in to the region.

Arms transfers to South American countries by China

It is noteworthy that China has not only made arms sales to SE Asian countries and is making friendly overtures in Oceania but that it has also made deep inroads through arms sales in South America. Significantly, it has sold arms to Venezuela, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Some of the major Arms transfers to South American countries by China during the period 2010-2017 as per SIPIRI Arms trade register are:

Venezuela- Radars, Trainer/combat aircraft, Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles (SRAAM), Transport aircraft, self-propelled MRL/Mortar, infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), Armoured Protected Vehicles (APV), Armoured personnel carriers (APC), light tanks, ASM

Peru- SAM, 122 mm MRL

Argentina- APCs

Ecuador- Air Search Radars

Bolivia- Trainer/ combat aircraft, helicopters, APV

Trinidad and Tobago- OPVs

Strategically China has thus ‘cupped’ the Pacific by securing not only its south eastern shores and Oceania but also the western shores of South America.

San Francisco System

A Japanese peace treaty was signed on 6 September 1951 between 49 allied countries and Japan which also contained elements of regional security. A separate security treaty was signed between the US and Japan on that day which made Japan’s economy, military, and diplomacy dependent upon the US. There were a slew of bilateral agreements and treaties thereafter which resulted in a loose and flexible collective security & cooperation structure in the region. The result was a hub and spoke structure with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia as spokes and the US as the hub. Historian John W Dower coined the term San Francisco System (SFS) to describe this informal arrangement under the security umbrella of the United States. The SFS continues to this day in the absence of any other formal security structure covering the Pacific region.

Conclusion

China has been working on the strategy of casting a strategic net across the seas with its arms sales which raises security concerns for nations directly or indirectly dependent upon sea trade. It has almost put in place a multi-polar power structure which would be difficult to dislodge. The string of pearls in the IOR, has grown in to a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’[7] with its pendant as the cupped Pacific.

The Chinese arms sales should not be wished away as insignificant since the market share of the US remains undented, it should instead be assessed in terms of collapsing geo-strategic and geo- political space of the US and its future ramifications.

The option available today in the Pacific is striving for freedom of the Ocean commons and loosening the trade & economic web spun by China through strengthening the spokes in the San Francisco System. It may be worthwhile to look for additional spokes in the nearly 70-year-old system especially in the third island chain. Island nations with rich maritime heritage like Tonga offer a good strategic foot hold and geostrategic advantage in the Pacific. For example, Tonga is ~3182 nm from US base at Guam, ~2752 nm from Hawaii, and ~1959 nm from Sydney. It has a large swath of uninhabited islands which can be utilised for security infrastructure. With the available sensor technologies innovative and cost effective ISR stations can be created which in turn would help in the development of the South Pacific Nations and wean them away from the influence of China.

Picture1

A new node in these islands nations offers the US the flexibility of using the existing sea ports and airstrips as well as an alternate manoeuvring and staging Area. In turn it could accrue scarce strategic space and strengthen the third island chain.

Time to act is slipping away!

[1] Mahan A. T. The Interest of America in Sea Power, Present and Future. http://www.archive.org/stream/theinterestofame15749gut/15749.txt (Accessed 10 Mar 2018)

[2] On 4 January 1954, US State Department Advisor John Foster Dulles propounded the Island Chain Concept, comprising of three island chains. The key component of the First Island Chain was Taiwan (it was thereafter christened as one of the Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers); it extended from northern Philippines & Borneo, up to Kuril Islands. The second line of defence was from Mariana Island to Islands of Japan. The Third Chain’s key component was Hawaii; it began at Aleutians and ended in Oceania.

[3] Andrew S. Erickson. Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Development and Counter-intervention Efforts

Testimony before Hearing on China’s Advanced Weapons. Panel I: China’s Hypersonic and Manoeuvrable Re-Entry Vehicle Programs U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Washington, DC.23 February 2017. https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Erickson_Testimony.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[4] John Henderson. Benjamin Reilly. Dragon in paradise: China’s rising star in Oceania. The National Interest; Summer 2003. https://crawford.anu.edu.au/pdf/staff/ben_reilly/breilly1.pdf (Accessed 18 Mar 2018)

[5] What Does China Want with Tonga? Featuring Gordon Chang & Cleo Paskal’, online video, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5vTeUJbN3M, (accessed 15 March 2018).

[6] China, Tonga agree to promote strategic partnership. Xinhua. 24 Mar 2018.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/02/c_137009307.htm (accessed 17 March 2018).

[7] Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans”. IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032. http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html  (Accessed 19 Mar 2018)

Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans

(Published IndraStra Global, 17 Dec 2017; for complete interactive experience visit http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html )

“Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”  

 Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Over a period, Chinese analysts have zeroed upon various countries/islands, which they consider inimical by being under the influence of the United States of America due to trade, military or common political goals. These include; countries/islands in Central Asian Region, Mongolia, India, and Diego Garcia in the outer periphery; Hawaii, Singapore, & Vietnam in the next closer circle; followed by Guam, Australia and New Zealand due to vicinity of second island chain; and Philippines (now tilting in favor of China), ROK & Japan within or around the first island chain. The aim of this article is to provide a naval perspective into the Chinese maritime engagements with nations having seacoasts.

Western Pacific Stand-Off Defenses-Carrier Killer DF-21 D and Guam Killer DF-26

In 2010, The US DoD acknowledged that the Dong-Feng 21D (DF-21D) Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile with a range of 1450 km had attained an initial operating capability. This missile can target a moving aircraft carrier from land-based mobile launchers and has maneuverable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system. It is understood that this missile is capable of destroying an aircraft carrier with a single hit. The emergence of DF-21D has led the US Navy to rework the ‘carrier support’ warfare approach with respect to China and recommence building of its ballistic missile defense destroyers.

In 2015, China displayed The Dong-Feng 26 (DF-26). It is an intermediate-range ballistic missile produced by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The DF-26 has a range of 3,000–4,000 km, and is said to have nuclear, conventional, and anti-ship strike variants. It is capable of targeting  American military installations at Guam therefore, it has earned the tag of the “Guam Express” or “Guam Killer”. Guam provides the US a strategic base to target the Asian continent with B-52s, F-35s, and F-22s. It also provides basic operational turnaround facilities for carriers and submarines.

Security Concerns-East China Sea

“China’s long-term goal is to build a real ‘blue’ water navy with global reach” – Song Zhongping, Military Commentator

China has built a pier for warships near a military base site close to the disputed Senkaku Island [2] in the East China Sea. A new 70 to 80-meter long pier for warships has been constructed on one of the islands in the Nanji island chain. It lies close to Wenzhou and is nearer to China than the nearest base of Japan. It is understood that a Coast Guard base is being constructed at Wenzhou, which would lend effective support to vessels for monitoring the Senkaku islands.

Security Concerns-South China Sea and Indian Ocean Region

The naval strategy of countries with large coastlines and hostile maritime neighbors invariably factors in submarines and anti-submarine warfare. A modern submarine is a potent multi-role asset that can carry out ISR, special ops, offensive missions, sea denial, and SLOC protection among others. In case it carries strategic weapons, it acts as an important leg of the nuclear triad. Undersea warfare by deploying submarines and/or other unmanned underwater systems is considered crucial in anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) environments. Considering the offensive capability a submarine bestows upon the nation operating it, there is some merit in also examining the likely basing /sale by China of conventional submarines and its associated high technology in the IOR.

South China Sea (SCS) – In early 2016, Satellite photographs had revealed that China had deployed two batteries of eight HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers as well as a radar system, on Woody Island.[3] HQ-9 is a new generation medium-to-long-range, active radar homing, track via missile SAM. Infrastructure for aircraft, runways, and missiles is visible on Subi reef, Fiery Cross reef, and Mischief reef as well. China has continued building a network of artificial islands and turning them into mini military bases.

Submarine Operations: It is understood that complete control of SCS is considered essential by China to provide its expanded submarine fleet unrestricted and unobserved access to the Pacific Ocean from their base in Yulin, Hainan. The underwater channels and straits in SCS facilitate clandestine movement of the submarines through the first and second island chains. It is also understood that China State Shipbuilding is likely to construct the “underwater great wall” a sonar surveillance system with ship and submarine sensors for effective monitoring of foreign vessels in the SCS.

Indian Ocean Region

Djibouti Naval Base – China’s support facility for PLA Navy at Djibouti about 8 km from the US military base is it’s most ambitious and first of its kind foray in having a military base outside of China. The facility would have ship and helicopter maintenance facilities, weapon stores, and support infrastructure for a small contingent of PLAN personnel [5]. This development is of prime importance for India in view of Djibouti’s vicinity to Gwadar as well as the fact that it has been placed under the Western Theatre Command [6] at Chengdu, which would have integral naval assets as well as assets from the PLA Rocket Force  (which controls strategic assets) of China.

Pakistan – In August this year, it was reported that Pakistan is likely to acquire eight attack submarines [8] from China. They are probably export versions of Type 039 and Type 039A/041 (with Air Independent Propulsion). Primary weapons for these submarines are the 533 mm Yu-4 torpedoes, it is also possible that they can fire the Yu-6 wire-guided torpedoes. The torpedo tubes are capable of firing the YJ-8 anti-ship cruise missile, AScM, with a range of 80 km. The submarine can carry a mix of torpedoes, missiles, and mines. The Type 041’s weapon package includes the YU-6 wire-guided torpedoes, mines, and the YJ-8 AScM. It could in the future field the supersonic YJ-18 missile.

Bangladesh –  First of the two Chinese submarines [9] was delivered to Bangladesh on 14 November 2016. The Type 035G diesel-electric submarines, carry torpedoes and mines and are capable of attacking enemy ships and submarines.

Thailand – The Royal Thai Navy is likely to finalize [10] the purchase of three Chinese submarines after dithering over it for some time.

Malaysia – The Royal Malaysian Navy, RMN is planning to buy up to ten littoral mission ships [11] (patrol craft) from China. It is also likely that Malaysia may consider Chinese submarines as a replacement for its HDW submarines in future. It is expanding the RMN Kota Kinabalu submarine base with workshops and air defense systems [12].

Berthing Facilities for PLA Navy in IOR

Myanmar– Construction of two deep-water ports at Kyaukphyu by a consortium headed by CITIC group of China [13] would provide China access to the Bay of Bengal and hence to the IOR. The government has earmarked 1708 hectares for the Kyaukphyu SEZ, with two deep-sea ports, industrial zone, and a housing project.

Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka is trying to breathe life into the Hambantota port and infrastructure project by handing over controlling interests to a Chinese consortium [14].

Maldives – There are indications that Maldives may let the China build a seaport at Gaadhoo Island [15 in the southern atoll. The location of the island is significant as it sits at the entrance to the one-and-a-half degree SLOC channel.

Pakistan – Gwadar port was inaugurated in November 2016 [16] with 250 containers carrying Chinese goods shipped on Chinese ships to the Middle East and African countries.

Tanzanian and Kenyan Ports – Bagamoyo port of Tanzania will be operated by China Merchant Holdings. Lamu port in Kenya is being developed by the China Communications Construction Company [17], and China Roads and Bridges Company is going to construct a modern port in Kisumu [18], Kenya (Lake Victoria).

Access to IOR of Chinese Mechanized Forces

Maj. Gen Bakshi, a strategic analyst has brought out the following two important facets of CPEC in his recent article [19].

The alignment of the CPEC corridor includes two major loops that come close to the Indian borders in Punjab and Rajasthan where major tank battles had been fought during the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. These loops in the CPEC grant a military bias to the otherwise proclaimed trade route.

The Chinese army in its thrust on rapid modernization has mechanized its formations to wheel/track based formations that make them very agile. It also allows them to bring their tremendous firepower to Indo-Pak borders through CPEC in the case of any conflict.

Needless to assert that the same firepower can be transshipped rapidly to Gulf, Europe and African coast if required.

Security Concerns-Elsewhere

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The following table accessed from SIPRI highlights the types of weapon systems exported by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China (Weapon Systems)-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m. at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$0.5m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
2014 2015        Total           
Aircraft 215 409 624
Air defence systems 52 64 116
Armoured vehicles 302 384 686
Artillery 94 27 121
Engines 1 1
Missiles 197 206 403
Sensors 30 10 40
Ships 470 865 1335
Total 1360 1966 3326

The following table accessed from SIPRI provides arms export by China during 2014 and 2015.

TIV of arms exports from China to nations-2014-2015
Generated: 10 December 2016
Figures are SIPRI Trend Indicator Values (TIVs) expressed in US$ m at constant (1990) prices.
Figures may not add up due to the conventions of rounding.
A ‘0’ indicates that the value of deliveries is less than US$ 0.5 m
For more information, see http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers/background
Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database
   2014 2015                     Total
Algeria 68 254 322
Angola 1 1
Bangladesh 245 474 719
Bolivia 20 20
Cameroon 74 74
Djibouti 8 7 14
Egypt 1 1
Ethiopia 2 2
Ghana 13 13
Indonesia 39 33 72
Iran 9 9 19
Iraq 17 17
Jordan 1 1
Kenya 7 10 16
Myanmar 267 288 554
Nigeria 57 58 115
Pakistan 394 565 959
Peru 13 13
Saudi Arabia 8 8
Seychelles 10 10
South Sudan 12 12
Sudan 32 27 59
Syria 5 5
Tanzania 26 20 46
Thailand 8 8
Trinidad and Tobago 16 16
Venezuela 77 147 223
Zambia 8 8
Total 1360 1966 3326

-It is interesting to note from the above table that 24 countries out of the 28 countries to which China has exported Arms and Ammunition have a maritime border!

-Further, the only four land locked countries that receive arms and ammunition from China have contiguous boundaries with Coastal nations, which in turn are beneficiaries of Chinese arms export. (Bolivia-Peru; Ethiopia-Kenya & Djibouti; South Sudan-Kenya; Zambia-Tanzania)

-it can be seen that the list covers nations in Asia, Gulf, both coasts of Africa, and Latin America. This intern implies ease of berthing facilities for Chinese Naval vessels in ports of these nations.

Gateway to Europe 

“The cooperation at Piraeus port is not just an economic collaboration but has strategic characteristics. Greece, via the Piraeus port, can indeed become China’s gateway into Europe to the benefit of China and Greece,”  Pitsiorlas, Chairman of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund privatization agency.

Greece – The ancient Greek port of Piraeus and one of the largest in Europe, located in the Mediterranean basin has been acquired by COSCO Shipping of China after purchasing 51 percent stake in the port [20]. COSCO Shipping is scheduled to construct a second container terminal for Chinese exports to Europe. The sale another Greek port Thessaloniki; which is being eyed by Chinese companies; is currently put on hold.

Turkey – In September 2015, Chinese state-owned shipping, and logistics company COSCO Pacific, along with China Merchants Holdings International and CIC Capital, had acquired a majority stake in one of the largest container terminals of Turkey, namely Kumport at Ambarli coast of Istanbul [21].

Thus, China has established a critical foothold in Europe by acquiring the Piraeus port as well as the Turkish container terminal in Kumport as part of its strategic One Belt One Road strategic initiative.

Chinese Foray into, Antarctica, and the Arctic (Bering Sea)  

“China’s rapid Antarctic…expansion reflects Beijing’s desire to become a maritime, and polar, great power” – Prof Anne-Marie Brady, Antarctic specialist

China is setting up its first Air Squadron [23] in Antarctica to support its ongoing scientific explorations. China is also a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty that bans the military activity in the region, but there are many dual capability missions, which can aid military research and operations in face of contingencies.

In September 2015, in a first of its kind mission five PLAN ships sailed in the Bering Sea off Alaska [24], interestingly, the PLAN ships were in the area during the visit of President Barack Obama to Alaska. With global warming likely to open the Northern Sea Route sooner than later, China is keen to utilize this opportunity as the route cuts down the distance and passage time to Europe. However, since Canada claims sovereignty over the said waterways, this could pose “the biggest direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage,” [25] according to Professor Rob Huebert, of University of Calgary.

Global Outlook of PLAN – Chinese Navy has undertaken modernization of its Naval fleet to meet its Global Navy focus as part of its geopolitical strategy. As analyzed in a Wikistrat report, “Chinese Navy ships have transited the Red Sea and Suez Canal, the Mediterranean, the Cape of Good Hope, the Bosporus, the Panama Canal, the Strait of Magellan, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and have made port calls all along both the east and west coasts of Africa, Bulgaria, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Australia. Chinese warships have sailed into American territorial waters near the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea” [26].

Conclusion 

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

A global strategic net has been cast by China by creating fundamental structures for sea trade and commerce. China has been carrying out calibrated development of its maritime capability in mercantile shipping, fishing, undersea exploration & exploitation, and the Navy. It is likely that by 2025 the world would have to come to terms with the global maritime status of China as also the blue water capability of PLAN. The attendant security issues and concerns would follow.

It is no longer a string of pearls in the IOR, it is a studded ‘Jade Necklace Across the Oceans’ that stares at the developed world in defiance today.

Options: 

  • Preclude confrontation given the precarious global economic situation and nuclear deterrence
  • Preclude submission given the dispositions of the existing and emerging power centers
  • Preclude peaceful co-existence, as it is utopian under the existing circumstances where national interests have prevented even an internationally acceptable definition of terrorism
  • Could include rapid building up of a robust coalition to create two distinct power centers, provided the United States is able to synergize its economic might with those of the like-minded nations and tamper the perception that it is a global hegemon.

Time to act is now!

 “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”  – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

  Publication Details:

Kulshrestha, Sanatan. “FEATURED | Jade Necklace: Naval Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Coastal Nations Across the Oceans” IndraStra Global 02, no. 12 (2016) 0032 | http://www.indrastra.com/2016/12/FEATURED-Jade-Necklace-Naval-Dimension-of-Chinese-Engagement-with-Coastal-Nations-Across-the-Oceans-002-12-2016-0032.html | ISSN 2381-3652|

Endnotes:

[1]http://origin.www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/Research/Staff%20Report_China’s%20Expanding%20Ability%20to%20Conduct%20Conventional%20Missile%20Strikes%20on%20Guam.pdf

[2] https://sputniknews.com/world/201608201044449726-china-pier-for-warships/  

[3] http://www.news.com.au/world/ongoing-escalations-in-the-south-and-east-china-seas-has-some-analysts-daring-to-wonder-who-would-win-a-war/news-story/20da5034d2b32ff31d35242cee26b656  

[4] http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1993754/south-china-sea-air-strips-main-role-defend-hainan   

[5] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-builds-first-overseas-military-outpost-1471622690   

[6] http://english.chinamil.com.cn/view/2016-02/02/content_7160686.htm   

[7]http://english.chinamil.com.cn/news-channels/china-military-news/2016-01/01/content_6839967.htm   

[8] http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/pak-to-acquire-8-attack-submarines-from-china-for-4-billion-report-1452729   

[9]http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Bangladesh-buys-two-submarines-from-China/articleshow/55415904.cms   

[10] http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/is-thailand-now-serious-about-submarines-from-china/

[11] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-malaysia-china-defence-idUSKCN12S0WA   

[12]http://thediplomat.com/2015/01/malaysia-eyes-submarine-base-expansion-near-south-china-sea/

[13] http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-moves-to-revive-its-sway-in-myanmar-1456697644   

[14] http://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/10/28/sold-sri-lankas-hambantota-port-and-the-worlds-emptiest-airport-go-to-the-chinese/#1d473d1716d8    

[15]http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/China-may-build-port-in-southern-Maldives/articleshow/51771171.cms 

[16]http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2016/nov/13/pakistans-strategic-gwadar-port-opens-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-1538139.html   

[17] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36458946  

[18]http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Chinese-firm-to-build-Sh14bn-Kisumu-port/1248928-3130106-4m9purz/index.html

   [19] http://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/voices/2016/nov/26/india-needs-to-seek-alliance-partners-who-are-prepared-to-contain-the-chinese-aggression-1542281–1.html   

[20] https://www.rt.com/business/355523-cosco-stake-greek-port/   

[21]http://www.invest.gov.tr/en-US/infocenter/news/Pages/280915-cosco-pacific-buys-turkish-kumport.aspx   

[22] https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/considering-chinas-strategic-interests-in-antarctica/   

[23] http://thediplomat.com/2016/02/china-to-establish-antarctic-air-squadron-in-2016/

[24] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-military-idUSKCN0R22DN20150902   

[25] http://time.com/4302882/china-arctic-shipping-northwest-passage/

[26]http://wikistrat.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Wikistrat-The-Chinese-Navy.pdf
 

Tonga and the Third Island Chain

( Published in IndraStra Global on 25 Feb 2016, ISSN 2381-3652 )

“The ongoing disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea mean that Japan’s top foreign policy priority must be to expand the country’s strategic horizons. Japan is a mature maritime democracy and choice of close partners should reflect that fact. I envisage a strategy whereby Australia, India, Japan, and the US State of Hawaii form a diamond to safeguard the maritime commons starting from the Indian Ocean Region to the Western Pacific. I am prepared to invest the greatest possible extent, Japan’s capabilities in the security diamond”

Shinzo Abe, 2013

Interestingly, John Foster Dulles of the US of A propounded the Island Chain Concept, comprising of three island chains, in 1951 for strategic containment of USSR and China. The key component of the First Island Chain was Taiwan (it was thereafter christened as one of the Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers); it extended from northern Philippines & Borneo, up to Kuril islands. The second line of defense was from Mariana Island to Islands of Japan. The Third Chain’s key component was Hawaii; it began at Aleutians and ended in Oceania. Now that the breakdown of USSR has taken place, the Chinese believe that this concept would be used to contain China.

General Liu Huaqing had articulated a three-tier program for modernizing the PLAN (commonly referred to as Chinese Navy),according to which the Chinese Navy is proceeding to fast pace its modernization efforts. The program essentially comprises of three time lines, namely:

Year 2020- Acquire capability to exert sea control up to the First Island Chain i.e. bracketing the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Year 2020- The sea control capability would be extended to the Second Island Chain, which amounts to bracketing the Philippines Sea.

Year 2050- The capabilities would extend to operating Carrier battle groups globally.

The phenomenal economic growth followed by upgrading of military capabilities of PLA and the subsequent claims on islands in the South China Sea, probably led Mr. Shizo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, to articulate the “Asian Security Diamond” in 2013. It called upon India, Australia, and Hawaii (US) to form a strategic coalition for safeguarding the maritime commons comprising the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. The Japanese Prime minister has also approached France and United Kingdom to join this Asian Security Diamond keeping in view the significant strategic presence of these two countries in the IOR and the Western Pacific.

The Polynesian Link in the Third Island Chain

The third Island Chain as espoused by Dulles; from the Aleutians to Oceania with Hawaii as a key component; has started to assume relevance with an assertive China militarizing disputed islands. New Zealand –Tonga – Hawaii link within this chain; could play a significant role at least as far as Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) is concerned. Whereas, New Zealand and Hawaii may not need any benign assistance, Tonga, with its 177 islands spread over an area of ~700,000 sq km in southern Pacific Ocean, is a different story.

Currently, in the maritime arena, Tonga is grappling with security of its extensive coastline as well as policing of its EEZ of 676,401 sq km. Its remote location, over 2,330 km from New Zealand and over 5000 km from Hawaii make it a fertile region for transnational crime. Tonga has insufficient physical and electronic monitoring resources to remain updated about real time situation in its vast area and is severely constrained as far as MDA is concerned. Tonga with its outlying islands is susceptible to gun running, narcotics, human trafficking and other criminal activities. In addition, unauthorized exploitation of its fisheries and marine wealth in its coastal waters as well as in its EEZ has direct impact on its national economy and security. As regards applicability of MDA to Tonga it would be prudent to take a cue from the definition and scope of MDA, as has been articulated by the US government vide their document National Security Presidential Directive 41, 2004:-

Maritime Domain Awareness is “the effective understanding of anything associated with the global maritime environment that could impact the security, safety, economy or environment of U.S. This is accomplished through the integration of intelligence, surveillance, observation, and navigation systems into one common operating picture (COP) that is accessible throughout the U.S. Government.

Unlike traditional naval operations, it is apparent that the goal of MDA is far more than simply looking for potential maritime enemies poised to attack Tonga. The implications of “Anything associated” with the maritime environment that can affect the security, safety, economy, or environment go far beyond a classic maritime threat. As per the US interpretation, these include smuggling of people or dangerous cargoes, piracy, proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), identification and protection of critical maritime infrastructure, oil spills, weather, and environmental concerns among other events. What Tonga needs today is a robust MDA along with a rapid air & sea transportation capability.

An important factor that has to be considered while discussing the Third Island Chain is that Tonga is being aggressively wooed by China, even though there are only about 300 Chinese residents as per some estimates. 

India has been participating in bilateral and multilateral strategic dialogues in the region including those involving Japan, Australia, and the US and the Indian Navy has participated in various naval exercises. However, India has not joined any group, which directly aims at containment of China.

India maintains cordial relations with nations in the Pacific; however, Tonga and other smaller nations in the South Pacific Ocean aspire for more attention from India. India could assist Tonga, benignly, in setting up of its MDA infrastructure. This would not only enhance the potency of the Polynesian Island link in the Third Island Chain, but also strengthen Tonga’s maritime security.