PLA Strategies In The Indian Ocean And The Malacca And Sunda Straits


Ex0

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This is also something I find puzzling: China has excellent relations with Pakistan, a shared adversary, close military cooperation, and yet there's still no indication that China is building naval bases in Pakistan. The Pakistani elite would love China to be more deeply involved in their struggle against India - which bases would automatically do - and the population would be at least acceptant of it since there isn't the imperial history like there is with the West.
Not really puzzling, since that is china's long held position to not make overseas military bases. They are even reluctant to call the base in Djibouti and elsewhere a "military" base. They call it some logistics supply base or something lol.

Why they don't do it in Pakistan? Because of India. China wants to obviously have good relations with India in the long run, and not go completely on side with Pakistan, and also doesn't want to make Pakistan too strong and able to actually start a war by itself. They want Pakistan to be able to deter India, but not actually start a war by itself without china's permission. I think it's similar to Taiwan situation with usa in terms of keeping status quo, while usa also doesn't want to make china it's enemy, like real enemy that cannot be reconciled.

As for why china doesn't want to have more military bases and pursue a strategy like usa, its because china is still too weak. Usa has all the developed countries and nato and eu etc on its side. Based on history, china knows usa and and eu and even India now(and Russia also) are all scared of china purely because of china's size and unity. So due to game theory, they all want to gang up vs china because china's the strongest. Usa is far away and they are not as scared of usa, which is why they allow bases, because usa needs them because they are too far away otherwise.

If china starts building bases and expanding it's military footprint, it will only give an excuse for usa and it's "allies" to militarize and gang up against china. I don't know why tphuang doesn't understand this. It's quite obvious. If china could get away with it, obviously it would. But it can't, so the status quo with bide the time and power up without making enemies and setting off alarm bells is the best way to go. Right now usa is like a headless chicken without an enemy to focus on. China should NOT take the bait and give them any reason or excuse to turn china into a full on enemy, which is the whole point of the game and why usa keeps provoking china. Is that so hard to understand tphuang? China is not ready yet to take usa on in frontal direct fight, so thats why china should bide it's time still and keep rising. It's a great strategy and also allows for great flexibility. If china doesn't want to be world hegemon or it can't, then it doesn't even need to do anything later and can just keep being neutral. China doesn't HAVE TO be undisputed world or even regional undisputed hegemon. As long as china's national security and sovereign is secured, which IT ALREADY IS(for the most part), there's no need to be greedy and risk ww3 or nuclear exchange. Unless of course you're some hardcore nationalist/imperialist hell bent on china being global Military/cultural/economic hegemon. Which I don't think is smart or even feasible in this multi polar world and just a waste of time, money, lives, etc.

After china is completely self sufficient in tech and energy, and has matched or has bigger economy and Military than usa and eu and Japan/sk combined, then china should start thinking about expanding military bases and playing world police, if that's what's in china's best interest at the time. Which I don't agree with since I prefer multipolar world and world peace.

Until then china should keep doing BRI and helping global south(ie china's real future allies) to rise to counter usas own allies. Countries like Vietnam and phillipines are too close to china and will always be playing both sides and hedging against chinas rise/power. And based on history you can't blame Vietnam either. Same as SK etc.

However with global south, like Africa, south America, middle east, and even EU, history is on chinas side. And geography also, since china is far away, and military bases and alliances would be more natural and logical. That's why usa has military bases there. I can see china can be guarantor of eu security because it's impartial and far away. In fact Ukraine has already called for it.. see below.

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"We believe that China is one of the most potent global leaders," Yermak said. "It should play a more noticeable role in bringing
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to an end, and in building up a new global security system.

"As President Zelensky has repeatedly said, we expect dialogue between President Zelensky and President Xi to take place very soon."

Yermak said Kyiv wants Beijing to be among the guarantors of a proposed new security arrangement that would protect Ukraine from further Russian aggression, in lieu of NATO membership, which Zelensky has all but abandoned.

"We also expect China to be one of the guarantors within the framework of the security system," Yermak said. "Because we treat China with the utmost respect, and we expect it to play a proactive role there."

This new security framework is a central Ukrainian demand in the ongoing bilateral peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv, which so far have produced humanitarian corridors but no ceasefire.

"We have paid an extremely high price for our past mistakes," Yermak said, referring to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which failed to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression.

A replacement, he said, must be more reliable. "The entire future of the world hinges on this agreement," Yermak warned.

"A lot of our partners have already agreed to play this role of guarantors of this new security system or framework. Of course, this system is yet in the making and we still have to negotiate the basis of it. But today we understand who are our true friends."

Very very interesting comments. New global security system with china in one of the key positions, if not the key position. And also seems like Ukraine is feeling betrayed by nato and EU, regardless if they are sending some manpads or not. In the end their country is still destroyed, and they aren't getting any nato membership or even eu anytime soon.

I don't see ASEAN going into alliance or allowing Chinese Military bases for the above reasons. If anything they would rather hedge against Chinese power and allow us bases. ASEAN itself is meant to be a counterweight to china(and usa to lesser extent), no?
 
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Godzilla

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I am curious to see how much resources and energy China actually need to import via maritime trade routes if it doesn't need to manufacture products for the Western World. Also, given China's current role in the world's supply chain, and the size of its market, as well as its quest for comprehensive self sufficiency, it'll be suicidal for the west for not the equivalent payback to cut off China without some kind of phased approach. Sure there will be significant job losses but most of the stuff China get from the West are wants, but most of the stuff the west gets from China is needs. If the dual circulation works as intended, then the pain to China will be even less significant in my view. Sure the West may want to decouple, but if the BRI through the central Asia & Africa is properly developed, it'll create substitute market elsewhere to negate the effect of decoupling as well as weakening the West's influence.

End of the day, the military is just the pointy end of the stick for politics, so long as we have a couple thousands of nukes to take everybody back to the stone age should they chose to attack, and a big enough navy to dominate the 1st island chain, diplomacy and trade triumphs in the long term, especially in an increasing multipolar world. It is not like the west is truly 1 united block, every one of those countries have their own interest in mind. The longer China develops peacefully, the easier it is to fracture the west and deal with each country individually....
 

tphuang

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Not really puzzling, since that is china's long held position to not make overseas military bases. They are even reluctant to call the base in Djibouti and elsewhere a "military" base. They call it some logistics supply base or something lol.

Why they don't do it in Pakistan? Because of India. China wants to obviously have good relations with India in the long run, and not go completely on side with Pakistan, and also doesn't want to make Pakistan too strong and able to actually start a war by itself. They want Pakistan to be able to deter India, but not actually start a war by itself without china's permission. I think it's similar to Taiwan situation with usa in terms of keeping status quo, while usa also doesn't want to make china it's enemy, like real enemy that cannot be reconciled.

As for why china doesn't want to have more military bases and pursue a strategy like usa, its because china is still too weak. Usa has all the developed countries and nato and eu etc on its side. Based on history, china knows usa and and eu and even India now(and Russia also) are all scared of china purely because of china's size and unity. So due to game theory, they all want to gang up vs china because china's the strongest. Usa is far away and they are not as scared of usa, which is why they allow bases, because usa needs them because they are too far away otherwise.

If china starts building bases and expanding it's military footprint, it will only give an excuse for usa and it's "allies" to militarize and gang up against china. I don't know why tphuang doesn't understand this. It's quite obvious. If china could get away with it, obviously it would. But it can't, so the status quo with bide the time and power up without making enemies and setting off alarm bells is the best way to go. Right now usa is like a headless chicken without an enemy to focus on. China should NOT take the bait and give them any reason or excuse to turn china into a full on enemy, which is the whole point of the game and why usa keeps provoking china. Is that so hard to understand tphuang? China is not ready yet to take usa on in frontal direct fight, so thats why china should bide it's time still and keep rising. It's a great strategy and also allows for great flexibility. If china doesn't want to be world hegemon or it can't, then it doesn't even need to do anything later and can just keep being neutral. China doesn't HAVE TO be undisputed world or even regional undisputed hegemon. As long as china's national security and sovereign is secured, which IT ALREADY IS(for the most part), there's no need to be greedy and risk ww3 or nuclear exchange. Unless of course you're some hardcore nationalist/imperialist hell bent on china being global Military/cultural/economic hegemon. Which I don't think is smart or even feasible in this multi polar world and just a waste of time, money, lives, etc.

After china is completely self sufficient in tech and energy, and has matched or has bigger economy and Military than usa and eu and Japan/sk combined, then china should start thinking about expanding military bases and playing world police, if that's what's in china's best interest at the time. Which I don't agree with since I prefer multipolar world and world peace.

Until then china should keep doing BRI and helping global south(ie china's real future allies) to rise to counter usas own allies. Countries like Vietnam and phillipines are too close to china and will always be playing both sides and hedging against chinas rise/power. And based on history you can't blame Vietnam either. Same as SK etc.

However with global south, like Africa, south America, middle east, and even EU, history is on chinas side. And geography also, since china is far away, and military bases and alliances would be more natural and logical. That's why usa has military bases there. I can see china can be guarantor of eu security because it's impartial and far away. In fact Ukraine has already called for it.. see below.

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Very very interesting comments. New global security system with china in one of the key positions, if not the key position. And also seems like Ukraine is feeling betrayed by nato and EU, regardless if they are sending some manpads or not. In the end their country is still destroyed, and they aren't getting any nato membership or even eu anytime soon.

I don't see ASEAN going into alliance or allowing Chinese Military bases for the above reasons. If anything they would rather hedge against Chinese power and allow us bases. ASEAN itself is meant to be a counterweight to china(and usa to lesser extent), no?

We are on a military forum. You have no knowledge of China's current military strength and US's military strength. You get upset with my suggestion that China should negotiate with its neighbors regarding a few rocks. Yet, you have no plan or idea of how they can deal with the biggest strategic risk that China faces except the hope that countries around China will fall in line as China continues to grow.
 

Coalescence

Senior Member
Registered Member
End of the day, the military is just the pointy end of the stick for politics, so long as we have a couple thousands of nukes to take everybody back to the stone age should they chose to attack, and a big enough navy to dominate the 1st island chain, diplomacy and trade triumphs in the long term, especially in an increasing multipolar world. It is not like the west is truly 1 united block, every one of those countries have their own interest in mind. The longer China develops peacefully, the easier it is to fracture the west and deal with each country individually....
"War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means." -Karl von Clausewitz

Also on the nuke point, I've been lurking for a long time here before, and I wonder why people think China has only 300 nukes. The usual argument is that nukes aren't useful if you don't declare it for deterrence, but if we're talking about hiding our strength and biding our time. Wouldn't hiding the number of nuclear warheads be a better choice so as not to look like an aggressor building up strength? You can also see China using the argument against the US, whenever they try to China on a nuclear weapons treaty. So I think there's a possibility that China already has 1k+ nukes, but chooses not to disclose it just so they don't alarm the West and the other neutral countries.
 

Michaelsinodef

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"War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means." -Karl von Clausewitz

Also on the nuke point, I've been lurking for a long time here before, and I wonder why people think China has only 300 nukes. The usual argument is that nukes aren't useful if you don't declare it for deterrence, but if we're talking about hiding our strength and biding our time. Wouldn't hiding the number of nuclear warheads be a better choice so as not to look like an aggressor building up strength? You can also see China using the argument against the US, whenever they try to China on a nuclear weapons treaty. So I think there's a possibility that China already has 1k+ nukes, but chooses not to disclose it just so they don't alarm the West and the other neutral countries.
I think we are pretty sure that China has MORE than 300 nukes, just unsure about the actual numbers.

Also that 300 number was from some RAND report, and even on this forum we were able to point out bits that was dated/wrong (not to mention China is very hush hush about stuff like their nuclear deterrence).

For a more accurate number we have no idea until the day China announces it (it will most likely happen if a military conflict seems inevitable over Taiwan probably). And even then, they could maybe only privately forward pictures/message to the various militaries around the world (US, Japan etc.) although it would probably leak into the public.
 

AndrewS

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These are exactly the kind of things I have discussion with a few others about. How can China keep its industries going in the event of a blockade? What do they do to keep economy functional? Where can they get their natural resources from? Which countries they need to be allied up with? Where can they open up a couple of bases that can strategically protect their interest. They don't need an empire. They need a few strategically located bases. Myanmar is definitely not the highest one I would pursue. The one in Cambodia is better located.
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The one next to Gwadar in Pakistan is very well located. Off topic, but this is a very interesting one they are pursuing
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More on topic, there is a reason for their engagement with the Middle East.
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If the NATO countries are upping their defense spending to over 2%. China should be increasing its budget a lot more! And I'm not a war hawk.

Do not assume that Western countries are content letting China do all the manufacturing. China needs to be prepared for a possible decoupling in the future.

Couple of points.

Cambodia is still 1000km from the Singapore Straits whilst the SCS Bases are 1300km
So a Cambodian military base doesn't offer very much over the existing bases in the SCS.
And Cambodia is still blocked off from the Indian Ocean by Thailand and Myanmar.

Plus China's response is to make itself indispensable to the world in the coming years, from an economic and industrial perspective.
 

AndrewS

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I take a different view. Cambodia is enclosed within the First Island Chain, the only advantage it provides is that it's closer to the Straits of Malacca. To break any American blockade, I believe China will have to launch two-sided attacks to flank the blockading forces, which means it needs to operate from the Indian Ocean side as well. Myanmar is unique in having a coastline right on the theatre of interest and an accessible land border with China. I think it should be China's highest foreign basing priority, and it's not like Myanmar is in a position these days to say no.

Very much so. I advocate China raising defense spending to over 2% over a period of a decade to avoid any inflationary shock in defense industries if the budget is raised suddenly. Having said that, it's worth doing a few back-of-the-napkin calculations to see just how much China spends.

The IMF projects China's PPP adjusted GDP to be $29.4 trillion in 2022. SIPRI estimates the actual spending to be 1.9%. I'll tabulate some scenarios and assume a 5% average growth rate in China's GDP out to 2032. I'll also assume that the difference between "official" and "actual" rates remains the same (0.5 percentage points)
1.4% of GDP (official)1.9% of GDP ("actual")2.0% of GDP (projected increase)2.5% of GDP ("actual" projected increase)
2022$410 billion$560 billionN/AN/A
2032$670 billion$910 billion$960 billion$1.2 trillion
All figures are in PPP-adjusted 2022 dollars.

Agreed, but that's more geared toward the Straits of Hormuz and supporting the Djibouti base. This is also something I find puzzling: China has excellent relations with Pakistan, a shared adversary, close military cooperation, and yet there's still no indication that China is building naval bases in Pakistan. The Pakistani elite would love China to be more deeply involved in their struggle against India - which bases would automatically do - and the population would be at least acceptant of it since there isn't the imperial history like there is with the West.

Couple of points.

SIPRI revised Chinese's military spending estimate downwards to only 1.7% of GDP.
This was also reflected in past estimates on their historical data series.

You'd be looking at a maximum of 3? years if you wanted to build up any level of additional industrial capacity to produce an existing weapons system.
So you don't have to plan for a 10 year period to ramp up to a desired level of military spending

As for Gwadar, I think Chinese warships would be allowed to operate from ports in Pakistan, if required.
 

tphuang

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Couple of points.

Cambodia is still 1000km from the Singapore Straits whilst the SCS Bases are 1300km
So a Cambodian military base doesn't offer very much over the existing bases in the SCS.
And Cambodia is still blocked off from the Indian Ocean by Thailand and Myanmar.

Plus China's response is to make itself indispensable to the world in the coming years, from an economic and industrial perspective.
Ream to KL
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about 925 km
to Singapore
close to 1100 km
to Phuket
about 675 km
to Darwin
about 4000 km
to Perth
about 4900 km

From Fiery Cross Reef
to KL 1500 km
to Singapore 1400 km
to Phuket 1600 km
to Darwin 3200 km
to Perth 4700 km

keep in mind that the infrastructure they can build at Ream would be a lot larger than what they've built at the 3 islands. At best you could station 24 fighter jets under hangar protection in each of the island bases. Would be hard to do the same with H-20 or Y-20U. You should build a much larger base with logistics at Ream. Also, you can't find people to go there and repairs things when runway or fuel depot gets destroyed. At landlocked base, you can always drive fuel trucks over there and pay a lot of workers to repair these things.

You could argue that Chinese fighter jet with Y-20U refueling could actually fly to the narrow straits of Malacca and have a decently long sortie before flying back. It would be hard to do that from Fiery Cross or Sub Reef. The difference between 900 km distance with a few Y-20Us vs 1500 km distance with limited possibility of Y-20U is huge.

If we consider H-20 and accompanying UCAV to have around 4500 km combat radius, flying from the reefs would be a little better. The problem there is the supporting infrastructure.

If you really want to control this area, an Indonesian or Malaysian base would be the best.
 
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reservior dogs

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We are not at a crisis yet. Aside from the obvious Taiwan scenario, there is also the scary scenario when resources/energy becomes scarce. Can China trust that Western countries will not physically cut off that supply and direct it to themselves. Not to say conflict will happen, but it would be negligent to not plan for the worst case scenario. People spend all day here talking about how China needs to acquire more nukes. The entire reason for acquiring nukes is to plan for the worst case scenario.
I agree that longer term planning for the worst case scenario is necessary. However, you have to consider the likelihood of each event happening. For the big event of Taiwan, China has a great deal of control over when it happens. Even in face of Taiwan provocation, they can simply ignore it if the timing is not right and use other none military means to deal with it. That does not take away the need to negotiate with countries for better position in the world and for port access around the world.

Resource scarcity in terms of oil is decades away. They need to plan for events that are more immediate.

Currently, Chinese military is not on par with the U.S., but I can see even one to two decades out, the Chinese can initiate an arms race that the U.S. cannot win. Until then, they will navigate around these risks as best they can.

BTW, the blockades have not happened thus far because the U.S. is in a fragile state economically. The cost to the economy if something like that were to be initiated is ginormous. Unless the Chinese do something to provoke the U.S., the likelihood of a blockade is quite low.
 

Coalescence

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Registered Member
BTW, the blockades have not happened thus far because the U.S. is in a fragile state economically. The cost to the economy if something like that were to be initiated is ginormous. Unless the Chinese do something to provoke the U.S., the likelihood of a blockade is quite low.
Another possible factor why they can't do a blockade, even if the US manage to fully decouple and/or set things up so that they don't feel any pain from blockade, is the geopolitical risk of blocking trade between China and other countries. Many countries rely on China as their main trading partner, and would face massive economic consequences if such a blockade were to happen. So if the US were to unilaterally declare a blockade, it will gain the ire of many countries, especially the ones that want to stay neutral.

If the US want to declare a successful blockade, it will need the backing of almost all of ASEAN, and help them decouple from China. Which I don't see how they can do that, especially when their closest allies like South Korea and Japan is even heavily dependent on exports and imports from China.

Even with the naval blockade, China could still scrape by trading with countries that they share a land border with, It might be even possible to bypass the blockade through those countries by proxy. Anyways, I don't think the US should pursue a blockade, its very costly to maintain and there are too many hidden risk that can come out of it. It would be beneficial instead to keep the current status quo, and expand their influence through military, by hyping up the "China threat".
 

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