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Westward Ho: Expanding Global Role for China's Navy*



hina has recently deployed a frigate in support of multinational efforts to dismantle and dispose of Syrian chemical weapons. Will this herald an expanding global role for the People's Liberation Army Navy?

China has recently joined multinational efforts to dismantle and dispose of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. It has deployed a frigate of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the escort mission with ships from Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States. Under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), this mission marks another milestone in the PLAN'S westward forays since 2008 when it committed the first task force to counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

That major initiative was followed in 2010 by the PLAN hospital ship Peace Ark embarking on the first "Harmonious Mission" voyage to countries worldwide, including Africa. In the same year, PLAN warships entered the Persian Gulf for the first time.

Strategic underpinnings

Since 2011 the PLAN'S exposure in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has increased, mostly within the multinational context. In February 2011, the PLAN frigate Xuzhou was deployed to "support and protect" the evacuation of Chinese nationals from then Libyan civil war zone - the PLA's first humanitarian mission abroad. A month later, the PLAN frigate Maanshan provided the first Chinese armed escort for the UN World Food Programme shipments to refugees in Somalia.

The expansion of PLAN'S participation in international security

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

operations dates back to the concept of New Approach to Security first promulgated by Beijing in the 1990s, which envisages a "3C" approach -common security, comprehensive security and cooperative security. In no small part, this is due to its security interests particularly vested in the crucial sea lines of communication through the Indian Ocean as well as mineral and hydrocarbon resources. Indeed China has always regarded the geopolitically volatile MENA as strategically important.

The PLAN made its first-ever port calls to Indian Ocean littoral states back in 1985, and only further afield to Africa for the first time in 2000. It steadily enhanced its capabilities to project force farther in the recent two decades. This facilitated expanded PLAN forays into MENA, where it increasingly participates in multinational security operations.

The expanded

PLAN presence in MENA is part of the overall broadening of PLA contributions to international security operations, including the deployment of servicemen to join the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MPNUSMA) - marking the first time the PLA deployed security forces for peacekeeping operations, albeit for the purpose of providing area security for MPNUSMA headquarters and living areas of the peacekeepers.

PLAN participation in such operations essentially facilitates Beijing's contributing more "public goods" for international security - in

A dose view of aft flight deck of the Type 054A frigate Yi Yang (Naval Technology)

TheHQ-16SAM Vertical Launch System (VLS) aboard the Type 054A frigate Xuzhou (530). (Naval Technology)

Issue 153


contrast to the backdrop of recent tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, where Beijing is involved in various disputes with its neighbours and its deployment of vessels tends to create suspicion.

Capability considerations

With its new shipbuilding programmes proceeding unabated, the PLAN will possess sufficient bluewater-capable naval capacity in the future to keep up with an expected increase in "out-of-area" participation in international security operations. The Type-054A Jiangkai Il-class frigates in particular have so far proven their worth during recent missions in MENA. They will most likely continue to remain primary workhorses for the PLANs international security involvements, with 16 of these warships already commissioned by the end of 2013, with more under construction.

The PLAN remains lacking in the area of replenishment ships necessary for providing logistical support for warships' operations far away from home bases for a sustained duration. However, it appears that the PLAN is gradually rectifying this shortfall, having commissioned a pair of new, 23,000-tonne Type-903 Fuchi-class replenishment ships in 2013. Judging from the present trajectory of PLAN buildup, it is likely that future Chinese naval shipbuilding programmes will encompass the construction of even more capable replenishment ships that will enable the PLAN to carry out prolonged "out-of-area" operations.

These vessels, together with a more sizeable fleet of bluewater-capable warships entering service, will not just equip the PLAN to undertake operations within China's immediate Asia-Pacific security milieu but also create surplus capacity to facilitate its expanding global role. As seapower

theorists put it, the ability of navies to project and sustain force further afield is also dependent on the availability of surplus physical capacity.

Mitigating negative image

From the strategic standpoint of its overarching global security interests, Beijing is steadily expanding its naval force projection capabilities to enhance its reach. Towards this end, we can expect the PLAN to maintain its current level of involvement in international security operations and even expand its global role.

Undoubtedly the foremost fungible instrument of Beijing's diplomacy this development will strengthen China's role as a positive stakeholder in the maintenance of regional and international order.

Not only will the PLAN expand its physical commitment to international security operations, but it will most likely build on the foundation of existing bilateral and multilateral cooperation with partner navies in MENA. This expanding global role for the PLAN, couched within the multinational context, will help mitigate negative perceptions of China's rapid naval modernisation. VL

Koh Swee Lean Collin is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unitoftheS. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.

Type-903 Fuchi-class (Public domain)

Jiangkai II (Type 054A) Class Frigate (Public domain)

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


Addressing Indonesia's Maritime Needs: Jokowi's Ground and Sea-level Challenges



Indonesian Navy selects VSTEP's NAUTISCIassAFull Mission Bridge Simulators for SIGMA Class Corvette bridge training (Courtesy Asia PadficSecurity Magazine)
The new Jokowi government faces a major challenge to upgrade its maritime policy to safeguard Indonesia's economic and defence needs. Besides securing its sea-lanes and overcoming logistical hurdles, the policy has to address the needs of Indonesia's fishing and sea-based communities across the archipelago.


HE NEW Indonesian administration of President Joko Widodo will face a number of challenges as a result of the promises of reform made during his presidential campaign in July. Among other things, the Jokowi-Kalla team promised an impressive and ambitious maritime policy to safeguard Indonesia's future economic and defence needs.

That maritime concerns took centre stage is understandable, for millions of Indonesians still move across the vast archipelago by boats and ferries. This means an improvement of the country's maritime logistical capabilities would be hugely important to connect production and population centres across the nation. This comes at a time when Indonesia's internal ferry system is still slowly developing, and ferry accidents - particularly during peak periods such as national or religious holidays - are a continuing hazard.

Securing Indonesia's sealanes

Additionally the Jokowi-Kalla team has promised a major upgrade of the Indonesian navy and the modernisation of its naval and maritime police capabilities. The new administration has committed itself to a shallow 'green water' fleet that will secure the internal sea-lanes and coastal areas of Indonesia by 2024, a move that is intended to address the problems of smuggling

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute

(including human trafficking, illegal immigration and refugees) as well as piracy across the archipelago.

On the macro-level these moves have been greeted positively by Indonesia's neighbours. Securing the internal sea lanes of Indonesia will do much in the global effort against piracy and smuggling, and will pay dividends to other international actors who see a more secure Southeast Asia as a boon to international trade.

Domestically the promise to overcome logistical hurdles has also been well-met by the Indonesian business community that has been fed up with local cartels. These cartels control domestic logistical networks,

which in turn have added to costs and prices of basic necessities like gas, oil, rice and sugar in the outer islands.

Maritime reform for a mari­time nation

But on the ground-level the need for a coherent and effective maritime policy also serves a domestic political need, particularly for those communities in Indonesia whose political-economy is

Issue 153


tied to the sea, such as the Bajao Laut people who live along the Timoro Straits off the Southeastern Peninsula of Sulawesi. A community of seafarers, their nomadic ways have been recorded since the 16th century when the first Europeans arrived in Southeast Asia.

The 'world' of the Bajao Laut is one that is sea-based rather than land-based. The Bajao are found across Sulawesi but also further, along the coast of Kalimantan, Sabah (East Malaysia) and Southern Philippines, making them a community that transcends political borders.

Up to the 1980s many of the Bajao still did not possess passports or identity cards that would identify them as Indonesian citizens. Many of them lived on boats out at sea and their life-rituals were tied to the sea, as was their income. Today most of them are settled in floating villages and their economic activity focuses on fishing and the harvesting of sea cucumbers -a delicacy much sought after in Hong Kong and China.

Globalisation has arrived in the form of traders who buy sea cucumbers in huge amounts, destined for restaurants in other countries like China. However their methods of fishing remain rudimentary, and most of them do not possess large

fishing boats. Today Bajao fishermen are facing pressure from other fishing communities, including foreign fishing vessels, that have been encroaching upon their waters.

National agendas and local communal politics

Addressing the needs of communities like the Bajao Laut will be one of the priorities of the new government of Indonesia. The Jokowi administration has committed itself to a new maritime policy and the promise of a Maritime Ministry, in keeping with his vision of Indonesia as a maritime country where almost two-thirds of its territory happens to be maritime.

The Bajao Laut are a sizeable community, one among many across Indonesia. With the slow process of settlement, they are now accounted for, registered and have also become voters. Bajao community activism is on the rise, with the younger generation making demands upon both the Sulawesi provincial government and the central government to recognise their culture, language and address issues related to their political economy: the main concern being their lack of supportive infrastructure and their inability to compete with non-

Bajao fishing vessels that may encroach upon their waters, robbing them of their livelihood.

Groups like 'Bajao Bangkit' (Bajaos Arise) have begun to call for better security, better education and better protection of their fishing-waters, and in time such groups have also learned the art of political lobbying.

The challenges that lie ahead for the Jokowi-Kalla administration are therefore many and complex, but they also have to do with the need to create a governmental system that takes into account not only economic and security needs but also communal demands from Indonesia's complex multi-ethnic society. With democratisation and increased political education, the new government now realises that no community is too small or isolated to be neglected. iW

Parish A. Noor is an Associate Professor attheS. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. (Article courtesy of RSIS)

Indonesian warship KRICIurit (Public domain)

Journal of the Australian Naval Institute


A Grand Strategic Framework for Australia - a Maritime Nation

Australia is truly an island nation that stands astride three great oceans - Indian, Pacific and Southern - and trades with the world to the west, north and east over those oceans and the archipelagic countries of South East Asia and South West Pacific. More than 90% by value is carried by shipping and Australia has responsibility for some 10% of the world's ocean areas making Australia a significant maritime nation.

However in the more than a century since Australia was created by federation of six colonial and other territories, there has never been a coherent grand strategic framework for Australia's national security and defence policy and the development of force posture and structure.

For the period until 1942 Australia relied entirely on the British Empire strategic policy and force implementation. Following the Japanese occupation of Malaya and the fall of Singapore this reliance diminished significantly and was replaced by reliance on the United States of America that had retreated from the Philippines in the face of the Japanese onslaught. At the invitation of the Australian Government, US General Macarthur commanded American and Australian forces in the campaign to push back the Japanese and to retake the Philippines, and the ultimate defeat of Japan.

Following the successful conclusion of World War II in the Pacific, Australia entered into an alliance with USA and New Zealand that is called the ANZUS Treaty. This treaty continues to the present day as the bedrock of the Australian strategic alliance and defence framework.

This article does not suggest any dramatic change to the ANZUS alliance itself but with changing strategic and international responsibilities and

changing expectations among alliance members it is timely to discuss the grand strategic framework for Australia as a maritime power.

Australia's geostrategic circumstances

Australia is a large island continent situated in large oceanic expanses with limited littoral adjacency to Indonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea, plus trade and commercial links with south-west Pacific countries, notably New Zealand. In addition Australia has several isolated small island territories in the Indian and Southern Oceans. Finally Australia has responsibility for a large segment of the Antarctic continent and offshore territories.

Australia trades with many countries but the most important components of trade comprise bulk cargoes of iron ore, coal, wheat and other agricultural produce, and increasingly exports of liquefied natural gas [FNG] and liquefied petroleum gas [FPG]. These trade flows are mainly northwards to China, Japan, South Korea and other Indo-Pacific countries. Australia imports oil from the Middle East and finished goods from Japan, China and South Korea.

In addition there is substantial international trade in value-added products, passenger travel and telecommunications exchanges. Finally Australia is a financial trading centre that includes stock, real estate, currency exchange facilities and inbound foreign investment.

Australia's national interests

Australia's national security and defence strategic bases comprise the following national interests: • Geographic fundamentals of territorial integrity and sovereignty

International relationships and intercourse, especially movement of people, bulk and value-added goods and products, intangible goods and services and currency movements Australia is, by its past history, a multi-cultural community and this has tended to increase since World War II when multicultural immigration has formed a large segment of national population growth

Fonger term, Australia has past connections with Dutch and French explorers but has primarily been British in its modern historical development. It is worth noting that serious development of the Australian colony occurred after the American War of Independence as a means to transport convicts that had previously been sent to the American colonies Further development of the Australia colonies occurred after many convicts were freed and with other free settlers developed successful pastoral properties and even more so after the discovery of gold in the south-east and south­west of the continent Eater development followed from exploration of the vast continent, much of it arid, and discovery of other minerals and inland rivers that

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