Tuesday, March 31, 2015

As China Expands Its Navy, the U.S. Grows Wary

This is interesting.

We were just talking about China's naval build-up in my World Politics class yesterday.

At WSJ, "Washington is divided over whether Beijing should be viewed as naval partner or potential adversary":
China’s navy chief, Adm. Wu Shengli, strolled the Harvard University campus in a tweed blazer and slacks during a visit to the U.S. last fall, joking with students and quizzing school officials about enrolling some of his officers.

A few days earlier, he became the first Chinese navy chief to attend a 113-nation naval forum in Rhode Island, where he hailed U.S.-China military ties and discussed working together on global maritime challenges.

Shortly after his U.S. visit, Adm. Wu took another trip—this time to the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea where his country appears to be building a network of artificial island fortresses in contested waters. It was his first known visit to facilities U.S. officials fear could be used to enforce Chinese control of nearly all the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

As Adm. Wu seeks closer exchanges with the U.S. in his quest to build a modern global navy, Washington faces the dilemma of dealing with China as both a partner and a potential adversary challenging U.S. naval dominance in Asia. “I would say that he doesn’t want to build a navy that’s equivalent to the U.S.,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, the retired U.S. Chief of Naval Operations. “He wants to build a navy that surpasses the U.S.”

Adm. Wu, navy chief since 2006, is one of the architects of China’s maritime expansion, sending ships and submarines deep into the Indian and Pacific oceans, launching China’s first aircraft carrier and overseeing operations to assert control of waters claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations.

He also has become China’s point man for cinching closer U.S. military ties, a priority of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Adm. Wu met his counterpart, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, four times over the past two years, forging guidelines on how Chinese and U.S. vessels can safely interact.

Adm. Wu now wants deeper exchanges, including help developing aircraft carrier operations and improving education for his naval officers. He says such exchanges would allow China to better work alongside the U.S. to maintain global security, according to people who have spoken with him.

Adm. Greenert and other senior U.S. Navy officials also advocate closer engagement to encourage China to embrace international norms. Some in the Pentagon and Congress, however, worry Adm. Wu’s real mission is absorbing American know-how to advance territorial gains and boost China’s ability to thwart U.S. intervention.

Adm. Wu has been described by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI, as the “most vocal and successful advocate for a greatly expanded mission” for the Chinese navy since Adm. Liu Huaqing, who first proposed turning China into a sea power in the 1980s.

He is also a so-called princeling, as offspring of senior Communist Party figures are known, and said by defense officials to have strong backing from President Xi—another princeling—who has put sea power at the core of his vision for China. That may explain why Adm. Wu, 69 years old, has kept his post so long. He said during his U.S. visit he expected to retain the job until 2017.

The conflicting views of Adm. Wu mirror a deeper debate over whether China and the U.S. can reconcile their competing strategic interests in Asia and forge a genuinely cooperative military relationship in the 21st Century...
Hmm... I think the U.S. oughta be careful about not giving away the store.


RELATED: At War is Boring, "China’s Third Aircraft Carrier Could Be Nuclear."