Brief Introduction to Sea Power in the 21st Century: Historical Experience and Chinese Issues

Release time:2016-03-31clicks:16

In December 2015, the book “Sea Power in the 21st Century: Historical Experience and Chinese Issues”, edited by Professor Zhu Feng, Executive Director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, was officially published and released by World Knowledge Press.

The book focuses on the urgent requirements and practical significance of the redefinition of maritime power in the 21st century from four aspects: the redefinition of maritime power in the 21st century, maritime power and China’s maritime power strategy, the historical experience of maritime power development and China’s maritime power construction and South China Sea strategy. And on the basis of fully drawing on the historical experiences of various countries and the construction of maritime power in different periods, and taking the South China Sea issue as the entry point, we put forward the important significance and realistic initiatives about the development of China’s maritime power from a strategic perspective.

The maritime power of the 21st century does not only refer to the strong maritime power represented by the navy, but the maritime presence and the acquisition of maritime interests should also be the subject of the construction of maritime power in the 21st century, but the military power attribute of maritime power should not be overemphasized to the neglect of the construction of maritime governance capacity. 21st century maritime power is not only the strong maritime military power in the 21st century, but also the global maritime commercial competitiveness in the 21st century, and more importantly, the leadership of the world maritime legal rules in the 21st century. At the same time, it must be the leader of the 21st century marine science and technology and marine economy. Only the 21st century maritime power is defined as maritime military power, can no longer meet the requirements of the times. Its connotation should be defined in the context of China’s actual situation, while taking into full consideration the current context of the times and the global environment.

Since the report of the 18th National Congress first proposed the strategy of building an ocean power, the discussion around China’s ocean power strategy has become a hot topic in academic research. This book argues that for China to realize its maritime power strategy, it must have a clear and inclusive maritime power strategy that is self-binding and operable. First of all, it should be clear that strategic threats mainly come from the sea and incorporate the maritime power strategy into the national strategy, while actively promoting the Maritime Silk Road. With the combination of maritime power such as shipping and maritime monitoring, actively provide the international community with public goods corresponding to national power, while paying attention to managing strategic crises and preventing strategic suspicion. And the narrowing of the naval technology gap between China and the U.S. is conducive to a shift in thinking between the two sides, and there is great potential for cooperation between China and the U.S. beyond the Western Pacific. Academic institutions should strengthen basic research, while actively promoting cooperation between the military and local universities and think tanks, and the development of maritime power must be combined with the development of diplomacy. A strong maritime military force is the basis for realizing the construction of maritime power and the strategy of strengthening the country at sea. The combination of naval construction and maritime monitoring and supervision forces can realize the comprehensive and comprehensive development of maritime power, but it is necessary to pay attention to the construction of the navy should be combined with the construction of maritime power and maritime power strategy of the whole country to avoid the situation of strategic partiality.

In the section of historical experience in the development of naval power, reviewing the historical experience of Britain, Germany, Japan and other countries and the Qing Dynasty in the construction of naval power, it believes that the following factors deserve attention: First, there must be a suitable “degree” between the peaceful rise and maritime military strategy, otherwise, the rise of China will certainly aggravate the tension in foreign relations. Second, it is not advisable to emphasize too much on zero-sum games when examining the naval strategies of the major powers. The ocean has become more of a global public resource and public product than just a channel for power delivery in the 21st century. The effective, scientific and peaceful use of the oceans, the development of the oceans and the protection of the oceans has become the consensus of the world. Third, the discussion of battles and technical issues should not dominate the discussion of strategic issues. The “Malacca dilemma”, as many scholars call it, is in fact a false proposition.

This book argues that China’s maritime power system should have the autonomy to complete the reunification of the motherland and contain the separatist forces of Taiwan independence; complete sovereignty over the islands and reefs in the territorial sea; the right to control the waters under its jurisdiction; the right to freedom of navigation in strategic passages; the autonomy to develop and utilize marine resources; and the right to safeguard the country’s interests overseas. To resolve the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, we must first strengthen the legal basis of China’s historical rights and clarify the nature of the historical legacy; secondly, we must clarify the family background, the specific situation of the nine-dotted line in the South China Sea and Taiwan's interests in the South China Sea; thirdly, we must move from easy to difficult, punish the recalcitrant and make a breakthrough; and we must improve the overall situation and strengthen dialogue and consultation with countries that have moderate political stances, less disputed islands and reefs and are friendly to China; Finally, the media should be regulated. The South China Sea issue is essentially a strategic, security and diplomatic issue, and the main reason China has been passive in the South China Sea is that it is treated as a sovereignty issue. China should try to avoid turning the South China Sea into “Asia’s maritime Balkans” and a powder keg for possible military conflicts between China and the U.S. and Japanese powers competing for spheres of influence in Southeast Asia. In terms of specific response strategies, China should adopt a space-for-time and time-for-space approach to make the South China Sea subordinate to the overall security strategy of the country, avoid being caught in early strategic confrontation with major powers due to the hasty expansion of maritime military power, maintain a balance between the South China Sea strategy and the country’s overall strategy, and exclude strategic interference with China’s continued development from the issue of territorial sovereignty in the development process.

This book is one of the series of the South China Sea Database of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies. The authors involved in the preparation include more than ten scholars, experts and researchers from many famous universities and research institutions, including Nanjing University, the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Renmin University of China, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Peking University, Beijing Language and Culture University, the Naval Military Academic Research Institute, and the Military Strategic Research Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

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