China’s maritime ambitions making waves in Pacific


China president Xi Jinping. AP FILE PHOTO

BEIJING – China’s communist rulers are making waves in the Pacific as they extend their naval strength and reach while Japan and the Philippines bolster their own fleets, increasing the risk of a maritime conflict, analysts say.

Five warships completed China’s first circumnavigation of Japan last week in a clear show of force. Other vessels regularly patrol various territories contested by Tokyo and other neighbors – prompting Japan to summon Beijing’s ambassador for a protest on Thursday.

At the same time, China’s first aircraft carrier is already in service, and top naval commanders have promised it will have more.

“What we are seeing is that China’s Communist Party leadership is now trying to leverage its new military capabilities to achieve political-strategic goals,” said Rick Fisher, an expert on Asian military affairs with the US-based International Assessment and Strategy Center.

President Xi Jinping has in recent weeks reaffirmed his country’s aim of establishing itself as a maritime power.

At the same time Washington, which maintains military bases around the region and has strong ties with South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines, intends to “pivot” its attention towards Asia.

Beijing insists that it has no interest in “hegemony” and its intentions are peaceful, but analysts say the threat of conflict is rising.

China’s circumnavigation of Japan saw its vessels pass through the Soya strait between Japan and Russia – on their way to joint exercises in Russia’s Peter the Great Bay – and the Miyako strait near Okinawa.

Of itself the journey is not physically challenging, but in the current context the symbolism was unmistakable.

The state-run China Daily said Beijing’s forces had “fragmented” what it called the “first island chain,” the land masses stretching from the northern tip of Japan to the Philippines that divide the Chinese mainland from the Pacific.

“By sending patrols through these sensitive maritime choke points China shows its neighbors that it will defend its interests beyond the China Seas, that it seeks to build a true ocean-going navy,” said Jonathan Holslag of the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies.

Fisher added that for China, “being acknowledged as a ‘superpower’ that can deploy large scale force to Africa and Latin America would also be a very significant ‘victory’.”

China’s actions and ambitions are prompting its neighbors to take their own defensive measures.

This week Manila took delivery of a Hamilton-class cutter from the US – days after announcing a purchase from France – while Tokyo unveiled its biggest warship since World War II, a helicopter carrier that could be adapted to carry vertical take-off jets.

The development raises the prospect of a potential Asian arms race. “To respond to Japan’s light carrier… China can only develop its own real aircraft carriers,” the state-run Global Times said on Wednesday.

Beijing’s first such vessel, the refitted Soviet-era Liaoning, went into service last autumn, and Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the navy, said in April that “China will have more than one aircraft carrier.”

Its first domestically built carrier may already be under construction at a shipyard near Shanghai, security consultancy IHS Jane’s reported this week, based on analyses of satellite photos.

The images appear to show a section of the deck that might serve as the track for an aircraft-launching catapult – a feature specialists say would let it carry a wider variety of larger planes.

“We know that China has been working on this, but putting it so fast on a carrier is a major step,” said Holslag.

Other suggestions are that the images may only be of a practice section intended to help the yard secure a contract to build such a vessel.

Beijing took effective control of the disputed Scarborough shoal just 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the Philippines last year, humiliating Manila, and keeps up nearly daily pressure in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety.

Chinese media have released in recent days photos of tourist ships landing on the Xisha islands, the Chinese name for the Paracels, whose sovereignty is challenged by Vietnam. Taiwan also claims them.

At the same time Beijing’s vessels frequently patrol near the disputed East China Sea islands known as Senkaku in Tokyo, which controls them, and in China as Diaoyu.

“For now the party is content to wage a virtual war of coast guard versus coast guard with Japan,” Fisher said. “We can consider this a ‘shoving match’, no punches yet. But the contest is real and China will push harder and harder against Japan’s ships.”

Once Beijing has built up its capabilities, he said, “China will be tempted to engineer an ‘incident’ to justify a small war at sea that it thinks it can ‘win’.

“You can be sure that Xi Jinping understands how a very well timed brief, contained and decisively won war can be very good for China,” he added.

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  • opinyonlangpo

    China boasts too much of its maritime ambitions with supporting this and that military stuff but why is it that it feels threatened with a small minimally armed cutter ship of the Philippines? It boasts so much influence but it feels insecure with scattered few hundreds of expatriate Filipino protesters. There seems to be an exaggerated projection of Chinese power.

  • wvillaro822

    China hates Japan, they are not like Pinoy that can easily forgive and forget. China thinks it thier time now to get even with Japan. They want now is to humiliate Japan to the core. As the writer indicated “Once Beijing has built up its capabilities, China will engineer an ‘incident’ to justify a small war at sea” but they will try to the blame it on Japan. Japan needs to rearm itself before its too late.

    • opinyonlangpo

      That will be a miscalculation on the part of China. Japan is a sleeping superpower which can make its own military machinery without depending on other countries. If China has to do it, it should not wait too long. Even now, China can’t win a conventional war against Japan.

      • Alfredo Alex G. General


      • gill

        agree what, general ??

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        That you’re an arsehole.

      • .Hugo

        how conventional? like back in ww2 when japan invaded china from the north again and fought in open ground unchecked?

        will modern war be fought like that anymore?

      • opinyonlangpo

        It will be a limited war considering the US presence.

      • .Hugo

        like what scale? in the east sea?

        if that’s the case then it is unlikely that japan can win. china will inflict heavy damages to the japanese fleet with multiple missile and air strikes even before the japanese seeing the chinese fleet.

        in just minutes china can scramble over 50 first line fighters in the east sea (similar has happened in april 2013) , how many f-15 and how long can japan do the same during war time and under heavy jamming?

        all done in about 20 minutes while china and the u.s. are locked in diplomatic wrestling.

      • opinyonlangpo

        True. If China acts now with its full power. But not when Japan is pre warned.

      • .Hugo

        expand that a little more….

        japan in secret posseses medium range missiles that can strike china airbases. as a desperate move, the abe government may use them to strike china even without the u.s. consent.

        in retailation, naha airbase in okinawa will certainly be hit by chinese missiles, but leaving u.s. bases intact. what’s left of the japanese retreating from the east sea, with their missile magazines emptied intercepting chinese anti-ship missiles and drones earlier, will face its final rounds of missile and air strikes (china has way too many airbases for japan to destroy along the coast).

        actually china has run numerous computer simulations with one of these results. the keys are anti-ship missiles and u.s. intervention, not the japanese surface or air forces at all.

      • opinyonlangpo

        You envision a full war. Its not a limited war to recover the Diaoyu islands. These two countries will not go to full war just because of two tiny unpopulated remote islands, not unless there is another reason to do so, like revenge for previous invasion and occupation. China is more intelligent than that, it will mean a collapse of the modern China as it will implode from the repercussions from the international community which will eventually affect its own population.

      • .Hugo

        i believe the physical control of the diaoyu islands themselves is not the main objective, it is rather a conflict with japan arises because of the diaoyu islands access rights, as both china and japan can say the islands are theirs and the other side won’t able to do much about it.

        war is of course expansive, but if china is prepared, like it always does, to fight japan again and if it is only a short war in the east sea, then it is still quite possible. that’s why china has run simulations often to evaluate the results.

        china is well used to international repercussions and sanctions of all kinds since 1949 anyway, adding one more in return to damage the japanese war machine in a good scale is worth the bet, especially when japan’s economy is weak.

      • opinyonlangpo

        China is more intelligent than that. It can conquer its neighbors thru military and lost economically, or it can conquer the whole world economically. China is now currently top two economically, what is going to happen when it starts war with its neighbors? You’ll never know till the war starts. The trade routes are passing thru all its neighbors.

      • .Hugo

        if the purpose of a war is to loot natural resources (conquering another country is not the trend anymore), then it will be far cheaper to just buy what is needed from overseas.

        as you said, there is no point to risk all the stakes to start a war and to deal with the aftermath when it is about fish and “yet to know” oil reserves.

        but to retake lost territory is another matter.

      • opinyonlangpo

        . . . risk its world class status, almost at the apex, economically and militarily. The rest I can agree with that.

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        So your sister now has to expand her p$ssy? You’re focking her too much!

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        Fock your sister Hugo, You know her scale!

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        Go fock your sister to have more spawn for cannon-fodder!

    • gill

      China hates Japan ?

      read the China Japan comunique in 1972.

      China forgave Japan for war compensation, that is never happened in history, Japan is the biggest financial reciepent ever in humanity.

      Japan just commemorated her suffering of atomic bomb afew days ago, each and every year.

      Did Japan also commemorated million Filipinos killed by Japanese army ??

      what a forgetness !

  • gill

    the 9-line isn’t claimed by PH, that is the fact.

    history never lies.

    • warillaman

      we are not stupid to claim other countries shores retard chink,
      history of greatness is always a lie to retard chinks,
      killing, maiming, decapitating, and making their own people slaves
      is the truth they try to hide, this retard chinks

      • gill

        China is uncivilized, for 6000 years;
        Chinese are retarded, on the top list.

        Filipinos are smart, Filipinos are winning, Filipino kids are the number one in math competition in the world.

        and Filipinos is so smart, even thousands of year ago when they were created, they picked Chinese DNA.

        smart indeed, and they keep that Chinese genes no matter what,never give them up.

        as they say, you can kill my this life, you can never change my DNA.

        smart !!!!

      • warillaman

        filipinos picked chinese DNA from retard chinks escaping the atrocities of their masters thousands of years ago and until now,
        and become free to roam around with no one to whip them and build great stupid walls their masters ordered them to on their pain of death in my lands, they breath fresh air free from the stale, putried, deathly smell of the land of their birth.
        here in my lands they became human again he,he,he,he,

      • gill

        today’s news:

        “filipinos picked chinese DNA from retard chinks”

        –by warillaman.

      • warillaman

        so true, he,he,he,
        “here in my lands, they become humans again”
        —– by warillaman

    • Punyëtero»Ka

      Only in your country, gill!

  • gill

    the laughing stock of the world never stop being laughed at.

    she went to UN to challenge the 9-line claim.

    the 9-line claim also covers Taiwan, how dare you to take Taiwan away from UN chapter which says Taiwan is part of China ?? how dare you violate your own treaty with China that Taiwan is part of China ??

    a nation off the law, bypass the law, forget the law is a rogue nation.

    • warillaman

      he,he,he, you scared now retard chink??
      we don’t care if it cover your chink cousins taiwan, just don’t cross my EEZ idiot, how can my country be a rogue when you don’t own it???
      you have to invade philippines to own it, but,, he,he,he, you don’t have balls to do it, you’re just scared, you are a rogue retard country who does not follow the laws of the sea they signed on, idiot retard.
      once it happened you cannot claim taiwan anymore, he,he,he,

      • gill

        as I said before, and I say it again now, PH isn’t the owner, of the 9-line at all.

      • warillaman

        I said it again, you can eat your 9 douche line, retard chink, he,he, he,

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        And you’re the owner of Hugo’s arsehole?

  • Kristoffer Atienza

    The Philippines is not into arms’ race. Our country is busy catching up in upgrading our armed forces, which is natural since our fleet of planes and sea crafts are old.
    China is the one who’s fast in building its arms. It has a grand plan and it’s out to bully countries who cannot defend themselves. Boo, China!

    • gill

      PH is king, PH is queen,
      PH is right, PH is best.
      PH went to UN alone, that isn’t unilateral;
      PH run aground a warship within the 9-line, that isn’t coercive;
      PH killed a Chinese fisherman, that isn’t agressive;
      PH is a good girl, she isn’t a bully;
      PH is liked, loved and caressed by all boys.

      • warillaman

        he,he,he, idiot retard chink he,he,he,he,

      • gill

        you are not hard enough, get more excited please.

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        Fock Hugo if your are gill.

      • Kristoffer Atienza

        PH is Democratic, China is …
        PH gives Freedom to have more than one child, China is …
        PH respects other countries’ territory, China is…
        PH has India, Japan, Tibet as friends, China has ….
        PH produces powdered milk safe for babies, China is…
        PH is content with its territory, China is…
        PH is moving to protect the environment, China is…

        Hmmm… What do you think China does?

      • gill

        China does things that PH couldn’t.

      • Kristoffer Atienza

        Right you are! Sie sie.

      • warillaman

        yes retard chink, he,he,he,
        can’t argue with that….
        no brainer there, he,he,he,he,

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        Let’s see you lick Hugo’s arse again, gill!

      • Pedring2

        Chinese commies are the scums of the earth.

      • Rejenal Pang

        PH is Democratic but president is inherit
        PH respects other countries’ territory but they don’t share the EEZ
        PH has India, Japan, Tibet as friends because they cannot communicate with each others
        PH produces powdered milk call the coconut milks
        PH is content with its territory not a colony anymore
        PH is moving to protect the environment because they have no development

        Hmmm… What do you think Philippines does?

      • Punyëtero»Ka

        Not fock their sisters like you perverts do!

      • hennagaijin

        PH has Ermita. More fun for all.

  • Commentator

    With a slowing economy, China’s ambition may well hit a roadblock. These things require lots of money and resources to achieve and maintain.

  • joboni96

    against intsik switik sea/islands grab
    imperialist recolonization and militarization

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