THE NEW MARITIME POWER

RESEARCH QUESTION– Why the new Maritime Power is the new World Hegemon? 

ABSTRACT- The history of maritime power starts with references from trade and people travelling from one place to other noticed the nature of exporting cultures and the power of dominating over the other.  This paper talks about how power dynamics and the quest for more authority have given birth to competitions in maritime power. One of the most focused countries which have established its control over the sea with intrigue introspection is China which has spread its hands of influence across the world where it targets underdeveloped and developing countries as a prey to manipulate their political stance and attract them by the incentives of infrastructural development. The paper highlights the recent maritime developments of the Peoples Republic of China which have bothered not just India but other countries as well. The Peoples Liberation Army Navy has been integrating itself with submarines and anti-ballistic missiles of longer range and expanding its maritime silk road in order to gain more control. The paper goes on to emphasise the laudable work it has done of strategising and pulling countries to its benefit and opened up to private investors. But Chinas recent charge over becoming the maritime hegemon is something which is the governments consideration that the nest maritime leader dominates the world politics and econometrics.

HYPOTHESIS- The inference drawn from a cluster of readings and books simply suggests the escalating steps of China towards a maritime power. The rise of such a state does not wash off the atrocities against Uighur Muslims in materialised detainment camps and the basic political system of the country which works with no transparency and minimum level of freedom. The height of economic prosperity and political support by the communist country leaves scholars pondering on the situation of law and order if such countries rule over multilateral organisations and political dialogues of countries. This pushes to highlight that a strict action plan should be deployed to ongoing matters of political tension especially the South China Sea where the authoritarian state completely rejects the documented claims of countries on that particular region. 

HISTORY- The World Power dynamics took its first step in the 20th century during the First and the Second World War where the malevolent nature of countries pulled them into a blatant abuse of military competition making intermediate countries suffer to the utmost. A maritime power is the one exercises its own discretion in the blue waters binded by a very simple law of the sea. One of the first ships in 1600 BCE were rowed vessels and sail boats which experienced an influx of cultures, traditions and a lot of explorers. With the increase in clashes between communities, it ignited the idea of strategising warships and cargo which were comparatively light weight, with higher speed and adequate space. Specialised ship building thus became an important undertaking as the sea posed new challenges and new destinations to be discovered, because continuing trade and discovering more had entertained the humankind extensively. 

With the world becoming more simplified in terms of connectivity, we need to understand how maritime power gained importance. The First World War witnessed Weltpolitik to start with the first Anglo-German Naval war where navy bills of 1898 and 1900 brought Germany into a military rivalry. The Royal Navy of the British Forces during this time span strategically planted itself as of strongest by exporting its influence on various countries around the world. The British enjoyed the resources of a very docile population in their colonies, where as the Germans broadened their line of sight through increased budget contributions and focused strategic advantages. The German naval ships expanded their horizon with a fleet-loving emperor and the sheer enthusiasm of the Germany’s bourgeois intelligentsia during this period. As time evolved, the importance and definition of maritime power made a major transition.

ANALYSIS- The early 20th Century definition of the sea power of the state was based on Alfred Thayer Mahans notion that sea power rested upon the means needed to defeat organised military threats originating in nations states. Mahan argued that naval power was the key element in the sea and was the crucial element for success in international politics</span><span style="font-weight:400;">. The importance of maritime was realised by smaller organisations like the North Pacific Heads of Coast Guards Association (NPHCPA) which started working on maritime security issues since the early 2000s. Its mission is to enhance multilateral maritime security and increase cooperation in enforcing fisheries treaties, combating illegal drugs-trafficking and illegal immigration.  

With the development of international forums and multilateral institutions slowly after the Second World War, the importance of foreign policy of a country started playing a major role in political stance. One of the basic determinants of foreign policy emphasise on a very precise aspect- geography, which sets the advantages and disadvantages of a country. This decides the maritime borders of a country and the ease in trade and commerce being facilitated.  

In the 20th and 21st century political disputes take a very strategic turn in curbing world trade and economics. Harbours and ports for ships carrying cargo have become vital points of conflict, cargo ships carrying oil have become the new weapons for hindering a countrys economy. China is one of the major countries targeting regions for exporting its infrastructural power and influencing countries.  The Chinese navy (PLAN) prepares to establish a stronger presence on Pakistans Makran coast and there are discussions on delivering their strongholds in other regions of the country as well. This is how China controls the amount of trade by subsidising the cost of trade taking place through these cargo ships and also providing employment to their large population. The China-Pakistan Economic corridor enjoys a huge population of Chinese living in Pakistan who consume a large part of the Pakistani Economy. Talks still continue as China goes on to coerce their control on Pakistan`s coast which might become a serious area of concern for the Indian Government. The PLAN also has anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden which further demonstrates the seriousness with which Beijing views the security of its Sea lines of Communication (SLOCs). The Chinese task force has been operating far from home and that too for extended time periods for bringing the country at a higher level of prosperity

The amount of trade and foreign direct Investment (FDI) has skyrocketed in the 21st century where the “open door” policy of China, has expanded to the One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR). The OBOR has three main policy drivers, these include (I) China is faced with an oversupply of domestic products which are required overseas, especially to build infrastructure in support of the OBOR project (II) China has developed expertise in constructing cost-saving basic infrastructure which would help China’s influence around the world (III) the OBOR provides a chance for China to demonstrate its financial strengths by providing alternate financing sources. It is part of an oft-told tale that China provides infrastructure loans to developing countries, often as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, knowing they cannot be repaid, allowing China to seize borrowing states’ valuable assets

The Hambantota Port stands as a clear example of how China took over the strategic port from Sri Lanka on a 99 year lease for the failure of payment of debt. It becomes obvious that China meticulously calculated the strategic benefits the port will render considering its geographical location which helps China carry out the refuelling of its cargo ships and export its goods throughout the world. This stands as a clear threat for India which might have serious repercussions as the Chinese trade and commerce has a very good advantage over Sri-Lanka`s political and economic stance in economic forums. It is not just India; the prospects of greater Chinese undersea presence in the region may have caused Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, to call for the deployment of anti-submarine warfare platforms in Sri Lanka’s near-seas. It also appears to be the single most important reason India is seeking control of the loss-making Mattala airport at Hambantota. 

The deceiving nature of China has somehow moulded the intentions of the South Asian country which has already been prey to the debt trapper. This scenario can be an extremely calculated step as Sri Lanka on the untimely payment of it debt requested India to provide assistance. It was the existing trade deficits which became of the major reasons India could not help the Sri Lankans. 

One of the most important regions of future maritime friction is the South China Sea. This is one the most controversial maritime regions where China being a regional hegemon again laying claim on the group of islands for carrying out its own commercial and military activities. Tensions mount as countries like Philippines and Vietnam contribute equal participation in the conflict. This region is not only a key point for the Chinese to display their military capabilities but also economically nourishing as the sea is estimated to have 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The parties to dispute include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The region is the new dreamland for China as it opens up new fishing grounds for the multiplying Chinese population and also carrying out military exercises. 

 Boosting its economy by using the oil for commercial purposes would push countries like China to become a potential challenger to the oil economies. India though does not fall in the long list of claimants or neither is an active participant of the conflict in the blue seas, but situation in a Chinese advantage will bother the country. 

According to the United States, claimants, under UN convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), should have freedom of navigation through EEZs in the sea and are not required to notify claimants of military activities. In July 2016, Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague issued its ruling on a claim brought against China by Philippines under UNCLOS, ruling in favour of the Philippines on almost every count. While China is a signatory to the treaty, which established the tribunal, it refuses to accept the courts authority</span><span style="font-weight:400;">. This might lead to serious clashes besides the trade war between United States of America and China as US ships deployed also try playing an important role in the blue seas. China has already started mobilising its troops in certain islands and connecting those to the mainland by building artificial landforms and putting forward arguments of historical connections. A Maritime power takes decisions and aptly influences countries and acts like a true hegemon with political and economical stability. Countries like China and the United States of America actively participate taking up sides and trying to grab over the price. Thus Geographical locations and strategic points play a key role in a countrys economy, and the dominant powers carrying out activities without hindrance enjoy the maximum power. 

CONCLUSION- The future of world politics is looking at a very possible clash between the world powers. The present competition between the United States of America and China is basically the Anglo-German Naval war of the 21st century where both try and get their hands on the bounty.  We cannot disagree on the fact that the presence of multilateral organisation like the UN has helped countries to follow a conventional procedure of finding solutions of crisis. Chinese capabilities increase day by day to conduct sea control operations further from its shores. The People`s liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has upcoming defense technology which pose as a serious threat not only to neighbouring countries as PLAN submarines become increasingly capable of long, extended deployments. It is about time that countries recognise the veto power threat and act accordingly.

Shrrijiet Roychowdhary is a student of Jindal School of International Affairs.

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