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China Outlines Naval Ambitions in a White Paper

... Ashish Bharati

A White Paper published by China's Ministry of National Defence on May 26, advocates that the traditional mentality that land outweighs sea must be abandoned.The whitepaper says, the PLA Navy (PLAN) will gradually shift its focus from 'offshore waters defense' to the combination of 'offshore waters defense' with 'open seas protection,' and build a combined, multi-functional and efficient marine combat force structure.

The paper further says that the PLA Army (PLAA) will continue to reorient from theater defense to trans-theater mobility. In the process of building small, multi-functional and modular units, the PLAA will adapt itself to tasks in different regions… (elevating) its capabilities for precise, multi-dimensional, trans-theater, multi-functional and sustainable operations.The document also envisions a larger PLA Air Force (PLAAF) role, stating that China "will endeavor to shift its focus from territorial air defense to both defense and offense". China's growing space capabilities would also be harnessed into "an air-space defense force structure." 

Marked Shift: The White Paper fruther reinforces the substantive shift in china's Sea Policy which started in 1980s when under PLAN chief Admiral Liu Huaqing China decided to throw off the self-limiting shackles of 'coastal defence' Policy and articulated a "Near Seas" strategy based on "offshore defence". 

Image result for PLAN chief Admiral Liu Huaqing

Liu's "Near Seas" concept visualised the PLAN's dominance of a maritime defence perimeter encompassing the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf, along with their islands. By the 2000s "Near Seas" Policy gave way to the "Far Seas" concept which, championed by President Hu Jintao, involved dominating the approaches to the Second Island Chain, which runs north-to-south from the eastern edge of the Japanese archipelago, along the line joining the Bonin and Marshal islands, the Marianas, Guam and the Palau archipelago.

India's Concerns: While the White Paper makes no mention of the Indian Ocean, India would be concerned. India continues to harbour apprehensions about China's cultivation of its neighbouring countries, creation of potential naval bases in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Pakistan, port visits by PLAN warships and submarines and Beijing's increasing commitment to anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden, which provides PLAN vessels the opportunity to sail the Indian Ocean.

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