Chinese Navy's Blue Water Dreams
C. Raja Mohan : Thu Apr 18 2013, 11:21 hrs
Unlike the previous reports, issued since 1998, the White Paper is expansive in identifying a range of missions for the armed forces in both war and peace. As Chinese armed forces look beyond their borders, the Navy's role as a flexible instrument has acquired greater salience in Chinese military strategy.
China's mastery of blue water capability, the white paper says, involves
- "conducting mobile operations,
- carrying out international cooperation,
- and countering non-traditional security threats" in distant waters.
- It also includes the nuclear mission—"strategic deterrence and counter attack".
Contrary to some observers who were downplaying the aircraft carrier that Beijing commissioned last year, the White Paper says the carrier, Liaoning, "has a profound impact on building a strong PLAN and safeguarding maritime security".
Organised around three commands—northern, eastern and southern—the Chinese navy has a total strength of 235,000 officers and men.
Among the new roles for its armed forces identified by the White Paper is
- the effective conduct of "military operations other than war" (MOOTW).
- These operations include "emergency response and rescue, merchant vessel protection at sea and evacuation of Chinese nationals".
Underlying it is the recognition that the Chinese navy must now prepare for a much wider range of security challenges than the mere defence of its territories at land and sea.
The White Paper says Chinese navy is focused on the "task force formation in blue water". The Navy, "organizes the training of different formations of combined task forces composed of new types of destroyers, frigates, ocean-going replenishment ships and ship borne helicopters".
Since 2007, the White Paper says, the Chinese Navy "has conducted training in the distant sea waters of the Western Pacific involving over 90 ships in nearly 20 batches".
In the Indian Ocean between December 2008 when China launched anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and December 2012, the Chinese navy has dispatched 13 task forces involving 34 warships.
Underlining the ambition to achieve global reach, the navy's Zheng He training vessel completed a voyage round the world calling at ports in 14 countries during April to September 2012.
Pointing to the new importance of maritime diplomacy, White Paper points to the Chinese navy's expanding peace time engagement with a large number of countries, including such major powers as the United States, France, United Kingdom as well as its immediate neighbours, Russia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand.(C.Raja Mohan is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a Contributing Editor for The Indian Express)