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Friday, February 18, 2005

Oil, Sea Lanes and Navies

International Herald Tribune says India joins China in a worldwide rush for oil and gas
Now India is joining China in a stepped-up contest for energy, with both economies booming while their domestic oil production sags. China is now the world's second-largest energy consumer, trailing only the United States. India has moved into fourth place, behind Russia.
China and India are also expanding their navies as they become increasingly dependent on lines of oil tankers from the Middle East, posing the beginnings of an eventual challenge to U.S. influence in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
(emphasis added)

See here and the section about China here.

Update: More thoughts- The Big Picture notes China's Oil Grab in its dealings with Venzuela and Russia.

Don't forget its action in the Sudan (one reason why Darfur gets no UN traction) and its deal with Iran.

China is looking out for China.

Update: Chrenkoff highlights posts on bloggers who note "It's a dangerous world out there." Interesting to note that China's growth and demands for raw materials plays a role. As noted in the links above, China has deals with Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, Russia, and a lot of other places. Of particular interest to me from a naval point of view is some of the material gathered by Chuck Simmins here:
What, then, are the specific challenges? Jiang Zhijun saidt hat in view of the fact that the primary task of China’s naval defense force, as stipulated by China’s national interests, is to complete the reunification process with Taiwan. At the same time, the naval force is also entrusted with the protection of China’s maritime rights and interests against possible invasion and damage, and to safeguard China’s rapidly growing export-oriented economy. Further, the drastically changed modern day warfare has also meant that long-range precision attacks characterizing high technology warfare will pose another grim threat to China’s defense of the territorial seas.

With Taiwan in hand, the Pacific Ocean will become China’s open field to the East

China is the only major country in today’s world that has not been unified. If China were to become strong, it would have to complete the grand task of reunification. The strategic importance of Taiwan simply can not be over-stated. Jiang Zhijun noted that the present state of China’s maritime security is rather grave. Generally speaking, the defense proficiency is not good, the level of defense combat effectiveness is low and there is little initiative control power.

China’s territorial waters are mostly composed of enclosed or semi-enclosed areas surrounded by the “first island chain”. Looking from north to south, apart from the South China Sea, all of China’s sea territory directly faces east towards the Pacific Ocean. The distance of most of the “first island chain” areas is no more than 200 nautical miles to China’s coast, which, in modern warfare, is within easy effective strike range. Locked in by the “first island chain” blockade, China’s sea defense force could hardly move beyond the boundary to carry out any meaningful defense operation. The only thing to do is to back up against the coastal lines to conduct shallow water defense. Since combat occurs right outside China’s doorway, China will be fighting close at home and is left with hardly any maneuver room to take operational initiative. Taiwan ought to be China’s natural gateway, but, if things went sour, it could then turn out to be other people’s stepping board for attacks against China.

Every big country bordering on both land and sea must have a safe exit point out to the waters. However, China’s exit point to the sea is questionable. It might not be a problem during times of peace, but during crisis, if the enemy country seals off the “first island chain,” then China would lose its exit way and the channel to connect to the outside world via the sea.

However, once the Taiwan issue is resolved, all the above strategic maritime safety concerns would automatically dissipate. Taiwan is China’s ideal seaward exit way bequeathed to us by our ancestors. As long as Taiwan is in China’s hand, then the Pacific would be an open area to China. Taiwan itself is a key link in the “first island chain”. After Taiwan is reunified with mainland China, this “first island chain” blockade will be broken, enabling the Chinese troops to expand their defense lines out to the Pacific in the East in order to better protect the safety of China’s coast and inland. By that time, the Taiwan Strait would become a safe and convenient route of communication for transporting troops and supplies between north and south.

In terms of China’s maritime rights and interests, Taiwan is also of immense significance. The issue of China’s maritime interests is addressed too late and the extensive degree of damage China has endured is rarely seen among other major countries of the world. Almost half of what should have always been Chinese territory according to international maritime laws have been forcefully taken away or invaded, the natural resources being looted routinely. Once the (Taiwan) reunification mission is completed, Diaoyu (Senkaku) Island to the North and the waters surrounding it would fall into the range of the Chinese gunfire protection. To the south, the distance from China’s coastal defense force to all the South China Sea islands and regions will be shortened by a big margin.
(source United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission)

Also worthy of noting:
Although Beijing's claims over Taiwan remain the focus of world attention, China is embroiled in unresolved territorial maritime and land issues with no less than 13 of its neighbours. Given that China's military capability is growing apace with its economy, the potential for military conflict over the disputed regions is similarly on the rise.
(also from Chick Simmins, original The Standard (China)

Those sea lanes? Let's go to the map again:

The red arrows point to places that China is working on to build up secure sea lanes for its raw materials.

It is a dangerous world.

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