Monday June 1, 2020


February 4, 2014

Late last week China sent three naval vessels to conduct maneuvers in the Indian Ocean. The flotilla conducted 10 exercises, including anti-piracy, search and rescue, and disaster control drills. It is now headed to the West Pacific to conduct additional naval exercises, having already passed through the Lombok Strait, Makassar Strait, and the Sulawesi Sea off the coast of Indonesia. Even though these drills in themselves are benign and could benefit China’s future contributions to disaster relief in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, India and others are wary of the strategic significance of China’s actions.

The flotilla consists of China’s largest amphibious landing craft, the Changbaishan, named after the famous mountain on the Sino-DPRK border, and destroyers Wuhan and Haikou. Both Wuhan and Haikou have previously participated in anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, near Somalia.

It is expected that the flotilla will return home through the South China Sea – where China has unresolved territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, and others.

Although these exercises are not targeted directly at any country, they do serve as evidence of China impressive rate of military modernization and growing naval strength. Exercises in the Indian Ocean underscore China’s competition with the Indian navy. When an Indian naval vessel sailed through disputed waters in the South China Sea during a visit to Vietnam in 2010, China expressed objections to the action and demanded India’s immediate departure from the disputed waters.

China has been developing a blue-water navy that has global reach, including launching its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning in 2012. Chinese sources report that construction of a second aircraft carrier has begun in the port of Dalian and should be completed in 6 years. US Director of Intelligence James Clapper voiced his concern over China’s build-up earlier this week, saying that “China’s aggressive pursuit of territorial claims is causing great concern among countries in the region.”

China also announced that it will return to the Indian Ocean later this year in the Jiaolong submersible for purposes of seabed exploration. Conducting seabed exploration poses a major challenge to China as many of the instruments needed are not allowed to be sold to China on the international market. This is due to fears that highly sensitive sub-sea sensors could be used by the Chinese navy to develop underwater systems to detect sea-bed communication cables or radioactive footprints of other submarines. The 22-ton Jiaolong, named after an aquatic dragon-like creature in Chinese mythology, is China’s first indigenously built manned deep-sea submersible. In August 2010, the Jiaolong successfully positioned the Chinese flag at 3,700 meters under the sea in the South China Sea, a controversial signal of its stake in the future of the area.

For more information on China’s growing naval capabilities, see the following news articles:

ABC“China’s Navy Holds Indian Ocean Drills”

Reuters “China building second aircraft carrier: reports”

The Japan Times“India and Vietnam add a punch to their ties”

Eurasia Review “China in the Indian Ocean: deep sea forays”

Marine Corps Times“U.S. intel: Sense of destiny drives China aggression”

For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:

China News Service (中国新闻社)“中国海军编队印度洋演练反海盗应对‘立体敌情’”

People Television (人民电视)“印度洋:中国海军开展综合防御演练”

Xinhua (新华) – 中国海军舰队深入东南亚腹地军演

SINA (新浪)南海舰队远海训练编队在海上训练中学孙子兵法

Compiled and edited by Amanda Conklin