• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • China Striving to Dominate the Nearby Seas


    A Chinese naval task force, including its most modern amphibious ship, a guided-missile destroyer, and two frigates, was recently sighted operating off James Shoal, 50 miles off the coast of Malaysia. James Shoal is claimed by Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), as well as Taiwan.

    The appearance of the Chinese task force in these waters bears watching, for it is yet another example of Beijing asserting its territorial claims to the entire South China Sea. What is striking, however, is that this effort is directed at Malaysia rather than Vietnam or the Philippines. Unlike Hanoi and Manila, Kuala Lumpur has generally been quiet about its dispute with Beijing over their territorial claims; it is not clear why Beijing would choose to underscore its claims against Malaysia at this moment.

    Indeed, given reports of a Chinese law enforcement ship shooting at a Vietnamese fishing boat, as well as the decision of the Philippines to press for arbitration in its dispute with the PRC over their respective South China Sea claims, one would have expected Beijing to not antagonize yet another claimant. Moreover, that the Chinese ships are part of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, rather than drawn from one of the various law enforcement agencies, is even more disturbing, for it may indicate a greater willingness to militarize the disputes.

    There had been hopes that the new Chinese leadership of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang would pursue a more conciliatory line once they had formally acceded to both Party and governmental positions. Instead, Chinese policy on maritime boundary disputes appears to be hardening.

    In this light, recent Chinese actions, including reportedly locking a fire control radar on Japanese vessels, take on a much more alarming hue. Given the announced consolidation of the Chinese civilian maritime law enforcement entities (including China Maritime Surveillance, which reportedly fired upon the Vietnamese fishing vessel), Beijing appears intent upon establishing “escalation dominance” within its littoral waters with a range of options, including civilian agencies that can use force and less-than-lethal behaviors by the PLA.

    For China’s neighbors—and the United States—a confrontation appears to be increasingly hard to avoid.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    Comments are closed.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.