In 2004, China was the world’s second-largest consumer of oil and the third-largest importer of oil.
“The PLA leadership is acutely aware of its sea lines
vulnerability, and China is first seeking to reduce that
vulnerability by expanding its overland access routes to
new port access in Burma and Pakistan,” Fisher said.
A second step is to develop a naval force capable of
securing vital sea lines of communication and/or key
geostrategic terrain,” the Pentagon report said.
Indicators of a Chinese shift to a broader sea-control
strategy would include: development of an aircraft carrier, deep-water antisubmarine warfare capabilities, a
true area anti-air warfare capability, acquisition of large
numbers of nuclear-powered attack submarines and
increased open-water training.
China is building new classes of destroyers armed
with long-range surface-to-air missiles, and acquiring
Russian destroyers, designed to counter aircraft carriers
and other ships with supersonic Sunburn cruise missiles.
“By 2020, China is likely to operate an aircraft carrier,
the initial unit of which may be the refurbished ex-
Varyag acquired from Ukraine in 2000, to further support (sea lines of communication) protection,” Bray said.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate
Dec. 5 that “China aspires to be the pre-eminent power
But the Pentagon report notes that,
despite years of observation, most
statements about Chinese intentions
are little better than speculation. “The
outside world has little knowledge of
Chinese motivations and decision-making or of key capabilities supporting PLA modernization,” it said.
Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet,
said China’s “investments portend
a navy that is looking to what we
would call the blue water. ”
The need to discern their intent
“is the reason why we want to be
able to engage them, why we want
to get a better sense of how they
intend to operate their forces. So I
don’t consider them a threat.”
In September and November,
the U.S. Pacific Fleet conducted
joint maritime search-and-rescue
exercises with the PLAN off San
Diego and off Zhanjiang, China. In
October, a Chinese delegation participated in the Western Pacific
Naval Symposium in Hawaii.
Roughead regards the exercises
and exchanges as positive. His visit to China in November
resulted in what he described as some “very good discussions with the PLAN leadership” and the first visit of a
U.S. Navy ship — USS Juneau — to a Chinese operating
base as “a positive step toward increased transparency.”
“We believe that the visit by [Adm.] Roughead and
other senior military officers will further strengthen
mutual understanding and trust and push forward
relations between the two militaries,” said Jiang Yu,
spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign
Affairs in the release that dismissed the significance of
the Song submarine’s encounter with the Kitty Hawk.
“We invited them out for a fairly complex exercise,”
Roughead said. “But I am hopeful and very interested
in whether the Chinese will be offering us opportunities to observe some of their more complex exercises.”
Fisher is less optimistic about the prospects of
“We are now in the middle of our third grand attempt
to engage the PLA in what we could call normal military-to-military relations,” he said. “This attempt I fear will
also fail because we are trying to engage a Party-Army
that has no real interest in opening up to its most powerful potential enemy. The PLA’s leaders are the children
of [ancient strategist] Sun Tzu, for whom transparency is
a vice, not a virtue.” ■
A People’s Liberation Army Navy submarine sails through Hong Kong’s
Victoria Harbour. Noting the ongoing expansion of its naval forces, U.S.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate in December that “China
aspires to be the pre-eminent power in Asia.”