As European naval powers decline rapidly and the U.S. Navy diminishes quantitatively, China is going to sea. This ends a great historical trend that began six centuries ago, in which China withdrew inward and European naval expansion spread Western influence worldwide.
Now, for the first time in history, a robust and enduring debate pervades Beijing: Is China a continental power, a maritime power, or both? To what extent will its persisting political and strategic geography and the continentalist strategic culture it helped to form constrain its development as a maritime power?
The ancient Persians lacked a maritime tradition, but their leaders were open to new ideas. Initially viewing the sea as a barrier, they came to see it as a communications highway and developed extensive naval experience. By devoting major financial resources, they were subsequently able to build the first truly substantial navy in history. The scale and economic dynamism of these efforts suggest parallels to China.