Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 03:42 | SYDNEY
Thursday 19 Jul 2018 | 03:42 | SYDNEY

Carry on up the Pacific


Sam Roggeveen


5 January 2010 13:57

The latest issue of the US Naval War College Review has a very thorough analysis of China's aircraft carrier ambitions.

There's no doubt China has made a decision to field aircraft carriers — the article notes the many public statement made by Chinese officials about carriers in recent years, statements which could not have been made without a formal decision from the Central Military Commission to go ahead with a carrier program. Then there's the physical evidence, which the article only touches on but which we explored on The Interpreter last August.

The article is sober about the implications. A small carrier fleet would be useful mainly for lower-level contingencies involving regional adversaries, and at least in the medium term, it is not an indication that China wants to challenge US maritime predominance. For one thing, that predominance is built on a worldwide network of bases, without which a sustained at-sea presence is impossible.

That network is pretty strong in the Pacific — the US has maritime force concentations in Japan, Guam and Hawaii, as well as extensive access to naval facilities in Singapore, Australia and other countries — and although that's reassuring for US allies, it's worth keeping in mind that Beijing may not see it quite the same way. Those who point to Beijing's carrier program as evidence of a China threat should try to see the world through Beijing's eyes. Not to sympathise, but to empathise.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.