The world ocean has always been considered an arena of confrontation between the strongest powers in the struggle for control of resources and trade routes. The dominance on the sea has always allowed strong countries to dictate their terms of the world order (for example, the Great Geographical Discoveries of the UK, Spain, Portugal; the colonial policy of the UK, France, Spain, Portugal, etc.). States discovered and conquered new territories, carried their own orders and faith. In the XXI century, the situation with the redistribution of borders at sea has changed in comparison with history, but the presence of the large fleet still remains a huge advantage.
Statistics on the number of ships change every year: some countries, due to the lack of funds for modernization, reduce the fleet, others build new ships. (See Map 1).
Map 1.: Military Infographic (2020)
Source: SIPRI Military Expenditure Database, 2020
Thus, in accordance with the recent US defence report estimations, China has the largest navy in the world in 2021 in terms of the naval fleet. China’s navy has rapid growth in its offensive arsenal by building new warships and submarines and is still building out new ships. China’s navy considered the fastest-growing fleet in the world. Every year, the State increases units of marine equipment. China is now standing up to Japan, and it also raises legitimate concerns of the US government. The number of ships of various types at the end of 2018 is about 465, troops-more than 324,000 people. It is important to note that the US amphibious ships outnumber the Chinese in tonnage and capacity. To ensure the uninterrupted supply of fuel to the fleet, China is creating external bases in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Thus, for refuelling under a special agreement, Chinese ships enter the ports of Gwadar (Pakistan), Victoria (Seychelles), Yangon (Myanmar) etc. on a regular basis.
Comparatively, the Chinese navy has a numerical advantage in terms of the total fleet, the US still is the world’s most powerful navy for the superior technological edge. The most powerful as well as strongest army in the world, the US also has by far the most aircraft of any country. The country has cutting-edge technology like the Navy’s new rail gun, also a large and well-trained human.
According to the Naval Vessel Register and published reports, the US Navy as of early 2021, the U.S. Navy has over 490 ships in both active and reserve operations. In addition, the United States is the world leader in the number of aircraft carriers. The composition differs not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively. The US ships are equipped with modern equipment. There are 332,507 people in the navy. They have a dominant position in the Pacific Ocean, which was secured in the Second World War by ousting Japan.
Third most powerful military in the world is Russia, which total number of vessels at the end of 2018 is 270, but they also include those that are in reserve and on modernization. Half of them is actively used. Russia’s naval fleet includes one cargo carrier, one battlecruiser, three cruisers, 13 destroyers, eight frigates, 78 corvettes, 17 submerged SSNs, 22 submarines, 13 submarines for ballistic weapons, 7 submarines of cruise-missiles, 3 submarines for special purposed purposes. The priority area is submarines carrying modern missile weapons.
The fourth-ranked Japanese navy, which is considered to have 70 warships, including 17 submarines, 3 light aircraft carriers, and about 40 destroyers. Japanese Navy has 50,800 active naval personnel and around 155 ships. The Japanese Navy is one of the largest navies in the world.
It currently has around 345 naval aircraft of which around 145 are helicopters. F-35 Lightning II is going to be the main fighter jets of the Japanese Navy in the future. At present, it has 4 helicopter carriers, 40 destroyers, 20 submarines, 0 frigates, 6 Corvettes, 6 patrols and 25 mine warfare.
The Japan Self-Defence Maritime Force (JMSDF) is the maritime warfare branch of the Japan Self-Defence Forces consisting of 50,800 personnel, 150 ships, and almost 346 aircraft. The main purpose of creating troops is to ensure the security of the country, but today the law allows the armed forces to act differently if necessary.
Completing the top five is the fleet of India, which has one of the largest and most powerful fleets in the world, although in accordance with other sources its place is also occupied by the great maritime power of Great Britain. The Indian Navy pursues its origins back to the East India Company’s Marine which was founded in 1612. When India became a republic in 1950, it was named the Indian Navy. The Indian Navy currently has around 70,000 active naval personnel and around 285 ships.
Now coming to the size of naval aircraft the Indian Navy has approximately 250 aircraft of which around 100 are helicopters. Currently, MiG-29 and HAL Tejas are the main fighter jets of the Indian navy. It has 1 aircraft carrier, 10 destroyers, 16 submarines of which 3 are nuclear-powered, 19 corvettes, 13 frigates, 139 patrols and only 3 mine warfare.
The ranking of the world’s naval forces shows that the largest and most powerful are located in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also important that 4 out of 5 powers (the US, China, Russia, India) have nuclear status. These two facts indicate that their confrontation at sea is extremely dangerous for the maintenance of world order in the event of a conflict between states.
It is also important to take into account the active maritime diplomacy of the countries of the region. Thus, in accordance with the recent US defence report and the world media, it can be noted that in this direction, the PRC takes an active position in the region. China has steadily built up its maritime capabilities over the past three decades, giving it the ability to contest its littoral seas in the event of conflict. But significant challenges remain before it can control those waters, let alone the broader Pacific Ocean.
After the end of the Cold War and the passing of the ideological confrontation between the two systems, serious changes have taken place in the Asia-Pacific region. The rapid growth and strengthening of China’s comprehensive potential, the sharp increase in its international prestige, led to the fact that the Middle Kingdom was gradually considered as a potential strategic enemy of the United States and Japan. At the same time, China’s transformation into a global factory and the world’s second economy after the United States has dramatically increased its dependence on external supplies of raw materials (especially hydrocarbons), equipment, components, etc. The main sea communications, through which the Persian Gulf countries supply more than 80% of the state’s imported oil to China, run through the waters of the South China Sea and pass through the Strait of Malacca. A significant part of the export goods produced in China goes to the world market along the same route (see Map 2).
This region is becoming particularly important for China, so China is increasingly focusing on its maritime interests, including economic development, territorial management, energy and food security, as well as trade.
Beijing has always understood that new defence mechanisms are needed for new goals and achievements. In recent decades, China has turned the whole world into a “stage” for a global procession of Chinese goods. But in recent years, Beijing has started to develop the domestic market of its country. The concept of “xiaokang” (which means a well – off family or an ideal society) has gained a special place in the Chinese external and internal political stratagems.
Map 2.: World’s natural resources map
Source: CIA Factbook, 2020
This concept suggests that in five years 23% of the Chinese population should significantly improve their living conditions. The goal of the concept is to give priority to the Chinese economy’s policy of stimulating domestic demand as opposed to export industries.
It should be understood that the reorientation to the development of the domestic market means that it will be more difficult for China’s partners to exert political influence on its economic development (though stock and financial pressures and speculation) [6, p.244]. The reaction of many countries to a new alignment of forces in the world may be ambiguous, for Beijing that means a change in the mechanisms for protecting their national interests.
Chinese diplomacy of stratagems. What does this mean for today’s global geopolitical map? How does China use soft power tools and, most importantly, for what? Similar kinds of questions arise from analysts and researchers studying the growth of the Eastern dragon.
The Chinese policy of stratagems originates from ancient times. “Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem” – this is one of the 36 ancient Chinese military strategies. One of its interpretations can be translated as follows: “To get something really valuable, you first need to let the other party know the benefits”. It is believed that this is one of the first mentions of the Chinese “soft power”.
Having developed the economy at the beginning of the 21st century, China began to seriously think about new prospects in foreign policy. In Beijing, they reasoned that in addition to a modernized army and a powerful economy, “soft power” is also needed. Its importance for China in 2007 from the rostrum of the XVII Congress of the Communist Party was announced by Secretary General Hu Jintao. The stake was made on the ancient culture and values – the authorities feared that Sinophobia (hostility to all Chinese) would interfere with economic plans as well.
The 2008 Olympics in the Chinese capital became a landmark and, in many ways, a turning point. It began a new stage in the powerful promotion of China’s positive brand to the broad masses around the world.
Xi Jinping supported the promotion of Chinese culture and art from the very beginning of his rule. His first big concept, the “Chinese dream”, had a great domestic policy purpose and implied a revival of the nation in all spheres, but it was already then stressed that China’s achievements should be known all over the world. And to know, for example, not by the stereotypical “made in China”, but by the new high – quality brand “created in China”.
However, changes in domestic policy were only the beginning of global restructuring.
Let’s look at the foreign policy of China in 2014. China is actively studying the theory and practice of innovation in international relations, participates in the development of the global economy and financial management, maintains friendly relations with countries in various important areas, contributes to the peaceful resolution of conflicts in hot spots, works for the benefit of domestic development and creates a favourable atmosphere. In 2014, a strong foundation was created for Chinese foreign policy and achieved great success in this area. However, what followed next? Next was the Chinese Boom, in the form of China’s active manifestation of itself as an active and leading actor in international relations.
The second half of the first decade of the 21st century resulted in the implementation of a new foreign policy strategy. On March 25, 2016, the Politburo meeting of the CPC Central Committee recognized the urgent need for an integrated development of the military and civil sectors, since this is linked to national security and prosperity.
The speech of Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Huacheng (the main stake was made on the fact that “China moves from coast defence to defence on the high seas”) was soon confirmed by further practice. Thus, China focused on the strategically important South China Sea. Since 2016, the PRC has ceased to make claims and historical substantiations for this region (it has already done it for a long time) and moved on to a policy of direct presence.
While analysing Chinese diplomacy of Straits, certain world’s regions should be taken into account:
Sino – Pakistan ties. The construction of the port and railway in Gwadar allowed the PRC to get a transport corridor to the Indian Ocean, which can work in both directions (see Map 3). Chinese goods will flow to the East and to Africa, and minerals and Middle Eastern oil will flow back. Beijing has always been concerned about the presence of the United States in the Persian Gulf, which controls up to 60% of the energy resources transported for the needs of the American economy in this area. Thus, the exploitation of the Gwadar port will increase the energy security of the People’s Republic of China in case of a global military conflict.
Map 3.: Gwadar
Source: Institute for Conflict Management, 2016
Finally, Gwadar will enable China to establish an “intercept and listening post” to “monitor U.S. naval activity in the Persian Gulf, Indian activity in the Arabian Sea, and possible U.S. – Indian maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean”. The Chinese military presence in the region is of extreme concern to both the United States and India. At the same time, the naval capabilities of Pakistan itself are not dangerous for India, but the combination of Chinese and Pakistani naval forces can really become a serious problem. In addition, New Delhi fears that Islamabad will allow Beijing to use Pakistan’s military infrastructure without public disclosure, which will further complicate the work of international observers in this area.
It is also necessary to take into account that Gwadar is located on the territory of Balochistan – a province that American strategists consider in various geopolitical scenarios as part of a possible new state that unites Baloch Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. We cannot exclude the possibility that in the case of a war with Iran and complete internal political destabilization in the IRP, the United States itself will go to the creation of an independent Balochistan, using the Baloch rebel forces in Iran and Pakistan. In this case, the United States will win a landslide victory over China, depriving it of the possibility of unhindered access to the Persian Gulf.
Emphasizing the strategic importance of Gwadar, it should be noted that it is located on the watershed of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman – i.e., is the “door” to the Strait of Hormuz between the Omani and Persian Gulfs. This location means that 40% of all contracted crude oil on the planet passes through the Strait of Hormuz. Important is the fact that the owner of the eastern side of Hormuz is a strategic ally of Beijing and an active political player – Iran. On the west side, there are rich, but militarily weak monarchies of the Persian Gulf, which raises the question of the possible arrival of a new geopolitical force from the East into a potential hot spot.
China – Bangladesh. This country is one of the priority partners of the PRC in the military sphere, and there is a logical explanation for this. Since the mid-1970s, Bangladesh’s relations with India have deteriorated rapidly. In these circumstances, to ensure its own security, Dhaka began to actively develop cooperation with countries that had pursued an anti-Indian policy in the region. Quite naturally, Bangladesh quickly established ties with China, which at that time was in a state of acute confrontation with India. Beijing, in line with its desire to surround its rival with a “hostile cordon”, immediately began to provide significant military and economic assistance to Bangladesh. As analysts emphasized, in the 1980s, the PRC fully provided the armed forces of Bangladesh with everything necessary. By the early 1980s, almost all of Bangladesh’s military equipment was Chinese made. Since the late 1980s, Sino-Indian relations have gradually begun to normalize, but China continues to actively support Bangladesh in various fields: politics, economy, public life, culture, etc. In recent years, economic cooperation between the two countries has been developing particularly rapidly.
Regarding the construction of a container port in Chittagong (Shetgang) on the territory of Bangladesh, the Chinese leadership has repeatedly stated that its participation in this project depends on the independent decision of Chinese enterprises (see Map 4). According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, the Chinese government always encourages and supports its companies in friendly and equal cooperation with different countries of the world, including Bangladesh.
Western scholars, however, believe that China is building container port facilities in Chittagong for its merchant and naval fleets. The authorities of Bangladesh, according to foreign experts, fall under the pressure from the leadership of the People’s Republic of China and agreed to supply nuclear technology to their country in exchange for providing the Chinese navy with naval bases in the Bay of Bengal. In March 2010, China agreed to invest $ 8.7 billion in a project to build a deep-water port in Bangladesh, as well as roads and railways between the two countries. The new container port, according to the plan, will be able to receive up to 100 million tons of cargo at the same time by 2055, which is more than three times higher than today’s figures. According to some experts, China is also interested in the project because it expects to use the port in Chittagong as a gateway to the sea for its southern province of Yunnan.
Map 4.: port in Chittagong (Shetgang)
Source: Anadolu Agency Research, 2020
The actions of the PRC caused great alarm in New Delhi. In 2010. India has agreed to sell electricity to Bangladesh, provide it with a $ 1 billion credit line for infrastructure projects, and reduce import tariffs. In exchange, Dhaka allowed Indian ships to use the port, which is currently being rebuilt by China.
China – Sri Lanka. In March 2007 Beijing has signed an agreement with Colombo to finance the construction of the Hambantonta development zone on the southern tip of Sri Lanka (see Map 5). This zone included a container port, a bunkering system, and an oil refinery. The Export-Import Bank of China financed 85% of the cost of the $ 1 billion project, and China Harbour Engineering, which is part of a state-owned corporation, was engaged in its implementation. The same conditions have been achieved for the construction of an international airport, which was located nearby.
In the United States, the Hambantonta project is regarded as part of the “string of pearls” strategy, considering that China plans to use the port as a refuelling and maintenance station for its fleet while patrolling the Indian Ocean. However, the official Beijing insists that the port on the southern coast of Sri Lanka is a normal commercial enterprise. Despite the fact that the United States uses a naval base on the neighbouring island of Diego Garcia, the PRC has no immediate plans to build a full-fledged naval base, although it seeks to create a similar foothold in the Indian Ocean to protect its oil resources from pirate attacks or blockades by a foreign power.
Map 5.: Hambantota development zone
Source: South China Morning Post, Infographics, 2019
China – Myanmar (Burma). Deepening ties with this country is of great importance for China. Of particular interest to Beijing are the rich mineral resources of Myanmar, primarily the oil and gas resources of this country. It is worth noting that in August 2011, the construction of the Myanmar section of the China—Myanmar oil and gas pipeline began (see Map 6). The length of the Chinese section of the oil pipeline is 1,631 km, and the length of the gas pipeline is 1,727 km. The length of the oil and gas pipeline of the Myanmar section is 771 and 793 km, respectively. According to the construction plan, these pipelines were constructed and put into operation in 2013.
China – Thailand. Relations between China and the Kingdom of Thailand, for which China is the largest trading partner, are also developing dynamically.
Map 6.: China—Myanmar oil and gas pipeline
Source: Shwe Gas Movement, 2012
In 2005, The Washington Times newspaper reported from a report by the US Secretary of Defence that, as part of improving its energy security, China plans to participate in the construction of the Thai Kra – Canal (the Thai Canal through the Malacca Peninsula of Thailand), connecting the Pacific (Siamsky Bay) and the Indian (Andaman Sea) oceans) on the isthmus in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula belonging to this state (see Map 7). According to the Chinese side, the project will take 10 years and will require the involvement of 30 thousand workers and 20-25 billion dollars.
Western experts argued that by crossing the isthmus (at its narrowest point, its width is less than 50 km), it is possible to connect the Andaman Sea with the South China Sea, and therefore the Indian Ocean with the Pacific. Chinese ships, thus, will be able to go around the strategically important Strait of Malacca.
According to some Chinese scientists, in particular Sun Lingshun, the project the Kra – Canal is not in the interests of China’s national security. The researcher claims that for the PRC, the main goal of this project is to get out of the difficult situation in the field of oil and gas imports through the Strait of Malacca. Currently, the US Navy controls the entire Pacific and Indian Oceans, and Thailand is traditionally among the American “friends”, hence it is allowed to Thailand from time to time to revive the idea of “the Kra – Canal project” and bring it to one or another degree of embodiment. If there is a military conflict between China and the United States over the Taiwan issue, the United States can easily close the Kra – Canal.
Map 7.: the Thai Kra – Canal
Source: Deutsche Welle analytics, 2016
Sun Lingshun also believes that the implementation of this project will improve the strategic position of not only China, but also other important players in the region. The Kra – Canal is primarily beneficial to Thailand itself, as well as to South Korea. Korea and Japan, which also have to transport up to 80% of oil imports through the Strait of Malacca. Despite this, from the point of view of eliminating the threat to the security of Chinese oil transportation, the Kra – Canal project is less effective than the China – Myanmar pipeline project”.
China’s choice of precisely the Kra – Canal concept was dictated by very pragmatic facts. Thus, it should be noted that the Kra – Canal can reduce the path of ships from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian by more than 1,800 kilometres and eliminate the need to follow the dangerous and downtrodden channel of the Strait of Malacca.
Beijing’s ambitions are not limited to the Straits of Malacca. Thus, the China – Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), which connects Northwest China and the Persian Gulf, came in sight in the field of view of the PRC’s interests. This is a grandiose 45.6 billion – dollars logistics project, which is a network of highways and railways, as well as oil and gas pipelines. Until recently, each of the countries protected its network section: China – Xinjiang Uygur region, Pakistan – Baluchistan. However, in March 2016, the Afghan agency Khaama Press, and a number of Indian media reported the news that Chinese troops will be stationed in Pakistan to protect the CPEC. Analysts noted that China is striving for the Strait of Hormuz (because its extreme western CPEC point is Pakistan’s seaside Gwadar – a major modern port city given to the management of the Chinese state – owned company Chinese Overseas Port Holdings).
The South China Sea. According to Western experts, in the South China Sea, the PRC is developing systems that allow for large-scale deployment of naval and air force units, by strengthening bases on Hainan Island, the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, as well as in coastal areas in southern China (see Map 8).
Map 8.: South China Sea territory disputes
Source: Money Morning staff research, NPR, 2020
Hainan Island is known as a “tourist Mecca”. In April 2011, the 3rd summit of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) was held here. According to Indian scientists, this island is home to a deep-sea Chinese naval base, which is capable of receiving large aircraft carriers. It has 4 entrance tunnels to the underground storage facility, where you can place submarines with ballistic missiles on board. This base, located about 2,200 km from the Strait of Malacca, is the starting point of the chain of strongholds of the PRC, which stretches along the northern coast of the Indian Ocean to the Southwest Asia.
In the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands, China is building port facilities for mooring large ships and runways for long-range bombers. In fact, the PRC is in the process of building a group of unsinkable aircraft carriers in the centre of the South China Sea, according to Japanese scientists.
Shortly before the global financial and economic crisis of 2008 – 2009, one of the world’s largest port operators, Dubai Ports World, which has its own infrastructure on all continents, supported the Chinese proposal to build a canal to Malay the peninsula and the bridge over it, as well as ways to connect the ports on both sides of it with high-speed rail and highways. Malaysia had hoped to join the project because it was interested in building pipelines parallel to the channel from the Bay of Bengal to the South China Sea. Such a transport network, resembling the infrastructure of the Panama Canal, would become a crossroad of routes that are extremely important not only for Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries of Southeast Asia, but also for the entire Asian region. The crisis prevented the implementation of the project, and it was postponed until better times.
In addition, China plans to complete the creation of a high-speed railway network by 2021, which will connect it with the states of Southeast Asia with Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand (so-called 3,000-km pan-Asian railway network). As of January 2014, construction of sections connecting China with Vietnam, China with Myanmar and Laos with Vietnam were under way. Work on sections in Laos began in December 2017 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2021 with Chinese assistance. According to Western experts, this line is of strategic importance, since it provides the southern part of China with access to the sea.
It should be noted that China established control of the northern part of the sea (the Paracel Islands, Chinese – Xīshā Qúndǎo) back in 1974, but then it was not so much related to economic opportunities as to the blocking of Kuomintang Taiwan. In recent years, China has confidently taken control of the Spartly archipelago (Chinese – Nansha Qingdǎo), located in the southwestern part of the South China Sea (see Map 8).
According to the director of the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), Greg Pauling, in 2016, several Chinese reefs of the Spartly archipelago (Mischief, Subi and Fiery Cross) have been turned into artificial islands, and now space images show “rectangular areas with a retaining wall, 3,280 yards long”. Thus, Western analysts note that China is building three naval airbases in the southwestern part of the South China Sea with a runway three kilometres long.
Today, not only China, but also Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines are making claims to the Spartly archipelago(see Map 8). However, the military power there is currently on the side of Beijing. The PRC, with the brilliant serenity of a strong player, ignores both the protests of Taipei, Hanoi and Manila, as well as the “deep concern” of the US, sometimes raising the issue of the threat of war.
By such actions, China has actually placed under its control all the South China Sea, through which about $ 5 trillion of world trade turnover passes and has come “close” to the shores of Indonesia and Malaysia, i.e. to Singapore and the Strait of Malacca – to places through which a third of the world’s trade flows.
This PRC activity in the seas of South – East Asia did not bypass the Chinese partners in the region, provoking a negative reaction. Indonesia first started to contract, deploying in November 2015 a squadron of seven ships in the area of the Riau Archipelago, which is located halfway between Spartly and Singapore.
China – Africa. The African vector of Chinese “strait diplomacy” has not lost its relevance. On February 25, 2016, the spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defence, Colonel Wu Qian, stated that in Djibouti (the African side of the Bab el – Mandeb, connecting the Gulf of Aden (and hence the entire Indian Ocean basin and the Asia – Pacific region) to the Red Sea and further, through the Suez Canal, with the Mediterranean Sea), in the port city of Obock, work on the construction of a naval base of the PRC began. Chairman of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping agreed on this construction in January 2016 during his trip to Johannesburg for the summit of the Forum on China – Africa Cooperation (see Map 9).
Map 9.: Transhipment corridors
Source: Chinese Defense Ministry, EIA, Yonhap, 2019
It should be understood that the base in Djibouti will not only enable Beijing to control the Bab – el Mandeb Strait to some extent, but also will serve as a military guarantee of Chinese interests on the African continent, which is (for 2014) $ 210 billions of trade turnover and $ 20 billions of direct Chinese investment.
China is positioning itself as a “responsible” player in the global arena, not focusing on political issues, but focused on the economy and taking care of trade and the prosperity of at least half the globe. If in 2012, China invested $ 40 billion in Africa, in 2016 this figure was already $ 90 billion. China is a leader in developing countries who understands and shares the problems of these countries. For this reason, the deployment of troops of the Chinese army in Africa does not seem to be an adequate solution to the security problem. No one wants to adopt the Western colonial policies and acquire a negative image of invasion of internal affairs.
Although it is impossible not to recall that China officially opened its base in Djibouti (Camp Lemonnier) (see Map 10). In theory, the base can accommodate up to 10 thousand Chinese military, but so far in Beijing will be limited to a couple thousand people. The base in Djibouti will first of all allow the Chinese Navy to increase its presence in the Indian Ocean, it will also become a stronghold in the event of an emergency evacuation of Chinese citizens from Africa. Recently, by the way, it became known that China is expanding the port infrastructure in the territory of its base, extending the space for mooring ships.
Map 10.: Chinese and US bases in Djibouti
Source: The New York Times: Straits Times Graphics, 2018
It can be noted here that the rumours about China’s plans to create 18 naval bases all over the World Ocean have been circulating for more than one year, at least since 2014. The Xinhua News Agency at one time “recommended” the establishment of bases in such ports as Chongjin (North Korea), Port Moresby (Papua – New Guinea), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Koh Lanta (Thailand), Sittwe (Myanmar), Djibouti, Maldives, Seychelles, Gwadar (Pakistan), Port of Dhaka (Bangladesh), Lagos (Nigeria), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Mombasa (Kenya), Luanda (Angola), Walvis Bay (Namibia), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). As it can be seen, not only Africa is here in the sphere of attention of Chinese analysts.
In addition to purely security issues, Africa is also a market for Chinese weapons and a huge storehouse of natural resources that China needs for its development (see Map 11). From 2013 to 2017, exports of Chinese weapons to Africa grew by 55% compared with the previous five years. From 2008 to 2017, China exported $ 3 billion worth of arms to Africa. Algeria already purchases 10% of all exports of Chinese weapons, including warships.
Map 11.: Natural resources of Africa
Source: CIA Factbook, 2020
But at the same time, if the USA and Russia in Africa sell the lion’s share of weapons to several countries (for the USA, this is Egypt and Morocco, for Russia, Algeria and Egypt), then China supplies weapons on a smaller scale, but to a much larger number of African countries. In the long run, this may be a more effective strategy (stratagem “Feign madness but keep your balance”). One of its interpretations can be translated as follows: “Hide behind the mask of a fool or a madman to create confusion about your intentions and motivations. Lure your opponent into underestimating your ability until, overconfident, he drops his guard. Then you may attack”).
Thus, it can be seen that over the past few years, Beijing not only took control of the South China Sea, but also loudly declared itself in the three most important “bottlenecks” of world trade: in the Malacca, Hormuz and Bab – el Mandeb straits, while other Major powers of international relations (the United States, Russia, the EU) “were searching for democracy and human rights” between the black earth of Ukraine and the sands of Syria.
However, today the task of protecting maritime communications remains very difficult for the Chinese Navy. From the point of view of Western scientists, in its development, China simply follows in the footsteps of other world powers that have established military bases abroad to protect their interests. A great power is necessarily expansionist, and China, according to Western experts, will not be an exception, so the whole of Asia should be ready for the strengthening of the position of the PRC in the World Ocean, and Japan, the United States and other traditional maritime powers should again consider their “sea power” in this region as a key component of protecting their own national interests. Chinese scientists, in turn, say that such statements excessively inflame the situation around this problem and are ultimately aimed at deterring the PRC.
Thus, the Chinese leadership is faced with the task of reducing the resistance to its rise as a maritime power. On the one hand, Beijing needs to pay special attention to the realization of its maritime interests and, to this end, increase its maritime power. On the other hand, China should strengthen political and economic cooperation in the Indian Ocean and the Asia – Pacific region with Japan, the United States, India and the ASEAN countries. Thus, most likely the maritime policy of the People’s Republic of China will try to find a solution to this dilemma in the near future.
 Confucius began to develop this concept two and a half thousand years ago. In 1984, the father of Chinese reforms, Deng Xiaoping, noted that “a per capita GNP of $ 800 by the end of this century is Xiaokang.” In November 2002, at the 16th Congress of the Communist Party of China, the previous leader Jiang Zemin announced new “frames” of the Xiaokang: by 2020, 4 times increase in GNP against the level of 2000 or up to $ 2,000. And in October 2015, at the Plenum of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jintao set the task of doubling the country’s GDP and building a “medium prosperity” society in China by the centenary of the founding of the CCP in 2021. The real president of China, Xi Jinping, continued the idea of realizing of the strategy in 2016.
 The possibility of “provoking a war” was declared by Chinese admiral Wu Shenli when in October 2015 an American destroyer “Lassen” passed in 12 nautical miles ( 22 kilometers ) from the reefs Mischief and Subi.
USA and Australia Worry About Cyber Attacks from China Amidst Pegasus Spyware
Pegasus Spyware Scandal has shaken whole India and several other countries. What will be its fallout no one knows as we know only tip of iceberg. Amidst Pegasus Spyware Scandal USA and Australia both have shown serious concerns about Cyber Attacks on US and Australian interests. Both say that China is hub of malware software and both face millions of such attacks daily.
I am trying to understand why a software is needed to spy on a particular individual when all calls, messages, data, emails are easily accessible from server. In most of cases these servers are located in USA and some cases these are located in host country. In certain sensitive cases Government Agencies have their own server like Central Intelligence Agency and hundreds of other agencies and military establishment world over including India. Now point is who installs those servers.
A couple of years back I had talked to Mr Mike Molloy who is Chief Executive Officer of Orion Global Technologies previously known as Orion SAS. He had explained me how his company installs servers in host countries on request of private or gov bodies. He talks about contract and trust. That means even when a company or Gov buys a server or software for designated uses the “Secrecy” Factor remain on discretion of company which has supplied server or software.
Now if all data, e-mail, chat, messages, calls are accessible to Gov as per law and technology (Through Server all components of Communication are accessible and thats why me and you see start seeing call recording of a person even after many years later), I am unable to understand why a Gov will be needing a software to Spy on any one.
Now coming to where Australia and USA wants to carry the whole debate.
Australian Foreign Minister Sen Marise Payne said, “Australian Government joins international partners in expressing serious concerns about malicious cyber activities by China’s Ministry of State Security.
“In consultation with our partners, the Australian Government has determined that China’s Ministry of State Security exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange software to affect thousands of computers and networks worldwide, including in Australia. These actions have undermined international stability and security by opening the door to a range of other actors, including cybercriminals, who continue to exploit this vulnerability for illicit gain”, She further added.
She opined, ”The Australian Government is also seriously concerned about reports from our international partners that China’s Ministry of State Security is engaging contract hackers who have carried out cyber-enabled intellectual property theft for personal gain and to provide commercial advantage to the Chinese Government”.
She warned China by saying, “Australia calls on all countries – including China – to act responsibly in cyberspace. China must adhere to the commitments it has made in the G20, and bilaterally, to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage”.
On other hand USA’s The National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a Cybersecurity Advisory on Chinese State-Sponsored Cyber Operations. National Security Advisor said, ”Chinese state-sponsored cyber activity poses a major threat to U.S. and allied systems. These actors aggressively target political, economic, military, educational, and critical infrastructure personnel and organizations to access valuable, sensitive data. These cyber operations support China’s long-term economic and military objectives”.
The information in this advisory builds on NSA’s previous release “Chinese State-Sponsored Actors Exploit Publicly Known Vulnerabilities.” The NSA, CISA, and FBI recommended mitigations empower our customers to reduce the risk of Chinese malicious cyber activity, and increase the defensive posture of their critical networks.
Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geopolitical blocs
Authors: Tridivesh Singh Maini and Varundeep Singh*
On July 14, 2021 a terror attack was carried out in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in which a number of Chinese engineers, working on the Dasu hydropower project (a project which is part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor) were killed. The attack predictably evinced a strong response from China. The Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi speaking before a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Minister’s meeting asked the Taliban to disassociate itself from ‘terrorist elements’ and in a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, asked Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to book. Earlier in April 2021, a car bomb attack took place at Serena hotel in Quetta which was hosting China’s Ambassador to Pakistan (four people were killed and twelve were injured)
Wang Yi significantly praised the Ashraf Ghani government, for its attempts towards building national unity and providing effective governance. Beijing clearly realizes that its economic investments in the country as well as big ticket infrastructural projects can not remain safe if there is no security. Afghanistan also criticized Pakistan for its role in sending 10000 Jihadis to Taliban, this is important in the context of the region’s geopolitics.
Like all other countries, Beijing and Islamabad, would have expected uncertainty after the US withdrawal of troops but perhaps over estimated their capabilities in dealing with the turbulence which had been predicted by many.
Importance of Chinese Foreign Minister’s statements
Wang Yi’s statements are important because days earlier a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen had praised China and welcomed its role in the country’s reconstruction. He had also assured China that those involved in the insurgency in Xinjiang would not be given refuge in Afghanistan (one of China’s major concerns has been the support provided by Taliban to the East Turkmenistan movement)
While Beijing may have opened back channels with the Taliban and realized that it needs to adapt to the changing geopolitics, recent developments would have increased its skepticism vis-à-vis the Taliban. On the other hand, Russia has been more favorable towards the Taliban. Russia’s Deputy Chief of Mission in India, Roman Babushkin argued that the Taliban are a reality which needs to be accepted, and also that any military activities without a political process are insufficient.
Babushkin did make the point that for successful negotiations, Taliban needed to end violence.
‘that Taliban should deal with the problem of terrorism and other related issues in order to become legitimate, in order to [get] delisted [at the UN Security Council], in order to go ahead with the future Afghanistan and creation of the inclusive government
It would be pertinent to point out, that Zamir Kabulov, Russian President’s Afghanistan envoy went a step further and said that the Afghan government was not doing enough to make talks with Taliban a success.
China’s statements subtle warning to the Taliban, indicating its reservations, and praise of Ghani indicate a possibility of greater understanding between Washington and Beijing (even though Beijing has repeatedly attributed the current troubles in Afghanistan to Washington’s decision to withdraw troops).
Can US and China find common ground
It remains to be seen if Biden who has exhibited dexterity on a number of complex issues reaches out to Xi Jinping to find common ground with regard to Afghanistan. Significantly, while US-Turkey relations had witnessed a downward trajectory and Biden has been critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies and Human rights record, both leaders met on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in June 2021. During the meeting Turkey agreed to secure Kabul Airport. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan while commenting on Turkey’s assurance said
‘The clear commitment from the leaders was established that Turkey would play a lead role in securing Hamid Karzai International Airport, and we are now working through how to execute to get to that,’
Taliban earlier this week warned Turkey of ‘consequences’ if the Middle Eastern nation increased its troop presence in Afghanistan.
Russia’s statements with regard to the Taliban indicate that it is not totally on the same page as China (its prior experience in Afghanistan has made it more cautious and circumspect), and that the Afghan issue can not be understood from the simplistic lens of geo-political blocs and traditional lenses. All major stakeholders in Afghanistan, both within the region and outside, seem to be understandably befuddled by the turn of events. It is not just the US, but even China which would be worried not just from an economic stand point but the overall security implications of the turmoil in Afghanistan. The terror attack in KPK indicates that other CPEC related projects could also face threats from militant groups. Beijing would thus need to be quick to react to the overtures from the Taliban in order to secure its economic assets and lives of Chinese workers in neighbouring Pakistan.
It is especially important for Washington, Beijing and other important stakeholders in the region to work together for dealing with the near term turbulence as well as long term challenges Afghanistan is likely to face.
*Varundeep Singh is an Independent Policy Analyst.
Pegasus: Human rights-compliant laws needed to regulate spyware
The UN human rights chief on Monday said the apparent widespread use of Pegasus spy software to illegally undermine the rights of those under surveillance, including journalists and politicians, was “extremely alarming” and confirmed “some of the worst fears” surrounding the potential misuse of such technology.
“Various parts of the UN Human Rights system, including my own Office, have repeatedly raised serious concerns about the dangers of authorities using surveillance tools from a variety of sources supposed to promote public safety in order to hack the phones and computers of people conducting legitimate journalistic activities, monitoring human rights or expressing dissent or political opposition”, said High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in a statement.
According to reports, the Pegasus data leak allegations which surfaced through a consortium of media organisations over the weekend, suggests widespread and continuing abuse of the software, which the manufacturers insist, is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.
The Pegasus malware infects electronic devices, enabling operators of the tool to obtain messages, photos and emails, record calls, and even activate microphones, according to the consortium’s reporting. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers which reportedly belong to those identified as people of interest, by clients of the company behind Pegasus, including some governments.
Surveillance software has been linked to the arrest, intimidation and even killing of journalists and human rights defenders, according to the senior UN official.
Reports of surveillance also trigger fear and cause people to censor themselves.
“Journalists and human rights defenders play an indispensable role in our societies, and when they are silenced, we all suffer”, she said, reminding all States that surveillance measures can only be justified in narrowly defined circumstances when necessary and proportional to a legitimate goal.
Given that Pegasus spyware, “as well as that created by Candiru and others, enable extremely deep intrusions into people’s devices, resulting in insights into all aspects of their lives”, the UN rights chief underscored, “their use can only ever be justified in the context of investigations into serious crimes and grave security threats.”
If recent allegations about the use of Pegasus are even partly true, she maintained that the “red line has been crossed again and again with total impunity”.
Companies developing and distributing surveillance technologies are responsible for avoiding human rights abuses, she said, and they must take immediate steps to mitigate and remedy the damage their products are causing, or contributing to, and carry out “human rights due diligence” to ensure that they no longer play a part in “such disastrous consequences” now, or in the future.
States also have a duty to protect individuals from privacy rights abuses by companies, she added.
One key step in this direction is for States to require by law that the businesses meet their human rights responsibilities by becoming more transparent in their design and use of products and by putting in place effective accountability mechanisms.
Better regulation key
Reports also confirm “the urgent need to better regulate the sale, transfer and use of surveillance technologies and ensure strict oversight and authorization.”
Governments should not only immediately stop using surveillance technologies in ways that violate human rights, but also “take concrete actions” to protect against such invasions of privacy by “regulating the distribution, use and export of surveillance technology created by others”, the High Commissioner said.
Without human rights-compliant regulatory frameworks, Ms. Bachelet upheld that there are “simply too many risks” that the tools could be used to intimidate critics and silence dissent.
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