Nan Li`s Presentation - Transatlantic Academy

China’s Evolving Naval Strategy
Nan Li, PhD
Associate Professor
(401) 841-2365/
Note: This presentation reflects the personal views of the author and not the
official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other entity of the U.S. Government
1. Why important?
2. Near-coast defense
3. Near-seas active defense
4. Far-seas operations
5. Account for changes
6. Implications
7. Takeaways
1. Why Important ?
• Current understanding
– Near seas (近海) – offshore (离岸)
– Far seas (远海) – blue
water (蓝水)
• Help to understand
• Policy implications
2. Near-Coast Defense (近岸防御)
(1950s – Mid-1980s)
• Defense of 12-24 nautical miles of waters
extending from shore
•Concern of a Soviet land invasion in late
60s rendered PLAN less relevant because
Mao wanted to “lure enemy in deep”
• Supportive to land operations
• Counter–amphibious landing
• Ambush to sabotage supply lines
• “Aircraft, submarines and FAC” (“飞, 潜,
• Anomalies
– 1974 sea battle to
capture Paracels
– Development of
and nuclear
3. Near-Seas Active Defense
(近海积极防御) (Mid-1980s –
• “Our strategy is near-seas operations.
We don’t interfere everywhere like the
hegemonists do.” (“我们的战略是近海
作战. 我们不像霸权主义那样到处伸
手. ”)
Deng Xiaoping’s speech to PLAN Party
Committee meeting on July 29, 1979
• Articulated
by Liu Huaqing
– Navy as a strategic service – effective
and independent operations within and
slightly beyond first island chain, or in
“three seas” (“三海”)
– Local and temporary sea control
– More credible nuclear deterrence
• Post-2000 new capabilities
– Better ISR
– Fleet air defense
– “Assassin’s mace and data linkcentric warfare” (“杀手锏数据连中心
 New nuclear submarines
• Taiwan
– Sea control (制海权)for sea crossing
– Sea denial (lack of Chinese vocabulary)
or anti-access (反介入)
– Naval blockade and counter-blockade
– “Shock and awe”
• Spratlys
– Amphibious warfare
– Air cover for naval
4. Far-Seas
Operations (远海作战)
(Mid-2000s – Present)
• Endorsed by both
Jiang Zemin and Hu
• Effective naval
operations within and
beyond second island
• Regional defensive and
offensive-type navy (区
域防御进攻型海军 ) by
• Reasons articulated by China’s naval analysts
– Decline of land-based security threats
– Prosperous coastal region needs to be
protected but is vulnerable
– Newly emerging
maritime interests
regarding maritime
resources and overseas
investment and trade
– Need space for “exteriorline operations” to “gain
initiative” in naval
5. Account for Changes
• Leadership endorsement and
civil-military relations considerations
• Personal experience of Liu Huaqing
and institutionalization of naval
– Naval Armament Studies Academy (海
军装备研究院) established in 1983
– Naval Military Art Studies Institute (海
军军事学术研究所) established in 1985
• Changing threat perception
• Availability of funding and
• Does strategy drive capabilities? Not
6. Implications
• Possible new capabilities
– Aircraft carriers
– Long-range strikes of “enemy’s rear”
• Possible new areas of regular naval
operations such as Indian Ocean
• Constraints and debates
– Economics as primary driver
– Nonalignment/overseas bases
– Local war and “regional navy”
– Limited ASW
– Strategy of avoidance because
of Indian geographical
advantages,US supremacy and
other hazards
– “Continentalist” argument
• Long-haul, soft, indirect approaches such as counter- piracy
and HA/DR operations and multilateral security cooperation
7. Takeaways
• More concise interpretation
of cross-linguistic terms
• Rather than a single factor,
change in capabilities driven
by change in multiple factors
•“Far-seas” navy as objective,
a regional rather than global
blue-water navy, but still
somewhat ambitious
• Some opportunities for
cooperation in non-traditional
security areas
• Indicators for more expansive
– far-oceans (远洋) operations
– Overseas bases
– Dedicated ASW