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The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is continuing to expand its global footprint in shipping port investments. Despite the economic benefits involved in such investments, experts warn that the regime’s interests in global ports could advance its military ambitions.
China has investments in about 100 ports in at least 60 countries. State-run port operators, shipping companies, and investors continue to assist the Chinese regime in expanding its control over ports around the world.
Larry Bailey, a retired U.S. Navy captain and member of non profit Citizens Commission on National Security, said the Chinese regime is constantly positioning itself to take advantage of financial, political, and military influence.
“Shipping ports are becoming part of the CCP’s plan to have their foot in the door wherever that door may be,” Bailey told The Epoch Times.
Over 100 years ago, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan—an influential American writer—recognized the seaport as one of the keys to global power. James R. Holmes, the J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College, considers the Chinese regime to be “the most Mahanian power on the planet.”
“Chinese strategists understand both the crucial importance of seaborne commerce and the symbiosis between commerce and naval power,” Holmes told The Epoch Times in an email.
Mahan described sea power as a “chain” with links of “commerce, merchant and naval fleets, and bases,” Holmes explained. These bases are comprised of “naval stations on the military side and commercial harbors on the mercantile side.”
Bailey noted that the Chinese regime, on the one hand, has “every intention of putting a stranglehold” on worldwide trade. But on the other hand, the vast acquisition of Chinese shipping ports is “clearly fueled by more than economic factors,” he added.
Port facilities can be used to dock both commercial and military vessels, and this makes Bailey particularly concerned about the Chinese regime’s expanding maritime prowess.
Maritime Prowess Yields Military Advantage
Maritime prowess offers a few benefits, according to Bailey. One is “diplomatic influence and economic power,” and the second he called “brute force power.” While both are important, it’s the latter the retired naval officer finds most disconcerting.
Chinese military troops, according to Bailey, could “easily and strategically” be moved to nearly any location in the world. This worldwide access is “a quite uncomfortable situation, especially when it involves a government seeking global domination,” he said.
Beijing’s acquisition of commercial shipping ports could also be molded into military facilities. “This is the basic blocking and tackling of becoming a great seafaring nation,” said Holmes.
According to Bailey, the regime’s growing investments in seaports around the world is a “definite strategic objective.” With conquest in mind, he said the CCP has a growing number of opportunities for the seaports to be used to assist a military objective of placing a “stranglehold” on a country.
While host nations may find that partnering with China brings about economic benefits, there could be heavy trade-offs, warned Holmes.
“Permitting the PLA Navy to use the host nation’s ports could get them wrecked in wartime,” he said, referring to the People’s Liberation Army. This would be an obvious detraction from economic development and prosperity, he added.
Meanwhile, the Chinese regime may also leverage its trade relationships to put pressure on host countries.
The CCP “can hold trading partners’ property hostage, [particularly when] they come to depend on China for economic development,” Holmes said. For instance, “it can force them to choose between development and doing things that displease Beijing, like working with the United States on security affairs,” he said.
Bailey had a warning for countries doing business with the regime: “No one truly knows what the CCP is thinking, so it’s whatever interest they have at the moment which determines where they would go and what they would do.”
He urged countries to “keep control of port and natural resources, because the Chinese regime clearly wants them both.”
For Holmes, looking at the Chinese regime’s actions is key.
“For a country that prides itself on being anti-imperial, China behaves much like the imperial powers that victimized it during its ‘century of humiliation,’” he said.
“Host nations should take a hard look at its behavior in the China seas and Western Pacific before they surrender one iota of sovereignty over their seaports and natural resources.”
This article was originally published in The Epoch Times
The views expressed in guest columns are not necessarily the views or positions of the CCNS or its members.