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In his keynote report to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made it clear that the Party now sees building China into a maritime power of pressing strategic importance.
For a country with 18,000 kilometers of coastline and facing the challenges of safeguarding its interests at sea, building up its comprehensive maritime strength is both practical and necessary, and its decision should not be over-interpreted.
Countries with a coast all deem maritime interests part of their core interests, and China is no exception. Adjustments in its maritime economic policies and strategies will enable it to better tap its maritime resources and safeguard its maritime territory and rights.
As the world's second-largest economy, China now has a high degree of dependency on the resources in its maritime areas. And with an export-oriented economy, it relies heavily on the sea for transportation of its products. So the safe passage of ships on the high seas needs to be guaranteed. Since 2006, the Chinese navy has been conducting escort missions in the Gulf of Aden to protect both Chinese and foreign merchant ships from pirates.
China is also fully justified in seeking to become a strong maritime power to safeguard its sovereign waters.
Since last year, some countries emboldened by the US' strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific have chosen to raise the temperature of their territorial disputes with China, and some have illegally exploited the resources in Chinese maritime territory.
Yet whenever China voices its aspiration to be a maritime power, it is always met with wild speculation and criticism. Such concerns are unwarranted and will not prevent China from becoming a maritime power.
To be a maritime power does not mean China will intimidate or invade other countries: Chinese leaders have reiterated on many occasions that the country sticks to a defensive national defense policy, and it adheres to a peaceful development path.
By becoming a stronger maritime power, China will be better able to safeguard its interests and contribute more to regional and world peace and stability.
(China Daily 11/15/2012 page9)