China’s Indian Ocean strategy

It is commonly acknowledged that China is the nation that presents the greatest challenge to the US as a geostrategic power. But while the US has chosen to go the route of displaying military muscle to preserve its dominance, China has quietly set about building friendships with nations by helping them with large development projects.

As this report from Stratfor says, one of their major projects is to build massive modern ports for the shipment of cargo and one of them is in the town of Hambantota on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, which occupies a key position in East-West trade shipping routes.

So while the Chinese build ports for other countries, we bomb countries with drones. Which policy is more likely to create friends and allies?


  1. Didaktylos says

    One of the things the Chinese worked out long ago is that a huge empire built on conquest is actually more trouble than it’s worth.

  2. Pen says

    Didn’t the British do it that way too? Not in America, I mean but in the east? I wouldn’t call the results commendable though.

  3. Flying Fox says

    China is flexing its own military muscle, in the South China Sea and East China sea. You’ll hear more about that over the years, just wait. That’s the natural limit of their military reach for now. At the same time, the US DOES have friendship operations of its own, and we’ve been at it a lot longer than China.

  4. Hannu says

    The Chinese elites realize what’s best for them. They don’t need an external enemy to justify their hold onto power, they’re already in power and there’s no elections.

    Chinese elites want more stuff and more power because personal prestige is what every ruler wants because they’re already on the top of the material world where they can have anything else they want. War itself doesn’t give what they want. More trade, industrialism and development of the military does.

  5. mnb0 says

    “So while the Chinese build ports”
    They invest in Suriname too: construct roads, want to begin a palm oil plantation. Such a pity that they only use employees from China itself -- it’s almost slave labour btw. Surinamese population hardly benefits (it’s nice to have a good road from Moengo to Par’bo, but that’s it). The Surinamese political elite benefits though by means of free travels to China etc.
    So to answer your question: the policy of American and Canadian companies like Suralco (daughter of Alcoa) is likely to create most friends here.

  6. Henry Gale says

    China has no ambition to be a world power. Time and time again they have shown their philosophy is to let countries self govern. It is the US policy of meddling in the affairs of others that China doesn’t understand.

    This includes Tibet. While I do not agree with China’s methodical cultural genocide of Tibet, for China, it’s one country.

    That said, on the point of building ports, China cares not as to who they align with and they are not doing it for any noble reason. Rather, China intends to keep raw materials flowing to their shores. See China’s role in oil production in Sudan for more examples

  7. steve84 says

    They always backed that up with massive military power though. And they fought several wars to protect their trading interests in Asia (often against the Chinese):

    Yeah, the British fought two wars over the right to get the Chinese addicted to drugs. The Chinese didn’t have a high demand for other European goods, demanding hard currency instead, so the British needed something to improve their trade balance.

    Or their invasion of Tibet:

  8. davidhart says

    “Time and time again they have shown their philosophy is to let countries self govern. […] While I do not agree with China’s methodical cultural genocide of Tibet, for China, it’s one country. ”

    Well, it strikes me that if China considers China-plus-Tibet to be one country, China is obviously mistaken, given the totally different language, culture and traditions of the Tibetans from the Han Chinese, and their long history of not being part of China. Of course, if the ‘cultural genocide’ succeeds, then there will be a good case for considering them one country -- perhaps a good analogy would be Japan with Hokkaido, where the indiginous Ainu people have been almost entirely assimilated -- but only as the result of a sustained effort of refusing to let another country self-govern. I don’t think you can plausibly have it both ways here.

  9. lpetrich says

    Seems like Treasure Fleets II, like the original Treasure Fleets of the Ming Dynasty. However, this time it’s more economically sustainable and less trouble domestically.

    I can’t help but think that the original Treasure Fleets were a major blown opportunity for China. If China’s leaders worked out how to keep them going in an economically sustainable manner, China could have been able to maintain its independence, and maybe even colonize Australia, New Zealand, and western North America.

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