Editor's Page

As the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) expands its capabilities, what kind of operations will it perform? How much of a threat does it pose? Perhaps not as great as some fear. Retired Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt and Frederic Vellucci of the Center for Naval Analyses describe a navy that sounds very much like our own. The PLAN is proceeding on two separate but related vectors: its primary wartime mission, the defense of China proper and its sovereign territory; and peacetime activities, including participation in international-security efforts such as fighting piracy and search and rescue.

Professor Milan Vego takes the opposite view. Yes, he agrees, in peacetime and operations short of war, China’s navy enforces maritime sovereignty, guards regional sea routes, and protects shipping against pirates. But because China is also aggressively asserting territorial claims in the South China and East China seas, the United States must respond clearly and decisively. Vego calls for more U.S. carrier forces, submarines, and surface combatants to permanently deploy to the Pacific.

But operating in the region can be tricky. Veteran Proceedings author and retired Navy Captain George Galdorisi joins Caitlyn Antrim to explain how the Chinese have their own interpretation of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, especially when it comes to their country’s Exclusive Economic Zones. To keep them in check, the authors conclude, the United States must once again consider joining the convention, a prospect it has shunned often in the past.

China’s antiship ballistic-missile (ASBM) capability has been the subject of intense discussion for several years. But while the American national-security community has been fixated on the ASBM program and other attention-grabbing weaponry, China has been steadily developing its blue-water amphibious force, warn Craig Hooper and Navy Commander David M. Slayton. They point out that a volatile Pacific, filled with immigrant Chinese and sporadic eruptions of anti-Chinese rioting, could provide the rationale needed for the deployment of those amphibious capabilities.

Meanwhile, China’s much-discussed efforts to extend its maritime reach have stirred a great deal of speculation—and no small amount of anxiety—about the relatively new port of Gwadar, Pakistan. This facility is thought by many to be a key component in the so-called “string of pearls,” China’s strategic outposts. But Navy analyst Daniel J. Kostecka writes that a close examination of the facts shows that the talk is largely just that—talk.

Its all-out pursuit of cyber dominance has made China a significant asymmetric threat to U.S. security, Dr. J. P. “Jack” London contends. Despite consensus that cyberspace likely will be a major theater in future conflicts, the United States has no formal policy for dealing with foreign cyber threats. That needs to be addressed, he says, and addressed quickly.

Finally, in a departure from hardware and strategy discussions, Dr. Eliza Johannes of the Institute for Defense Analyses steps back and takes a big-picture look at China’s involvement overseas, particularly in Africa. The Chinese have greatly increased aid and investments there over the past decade. Is it a relationship of mutual benefit? Or is China merely the latest in a long line of colonial powers eager to exploit the continent’s valuable resources?

Paul Merzlak, Editor-in-Chief


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