Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Birth of truly global Chinese navy

By Zhou Bo (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-10 08:08

Birth of truly global Chinese navy

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's first nuclear-powered submarine force line up in Qingdao, East China's Shandong province, Oct 27, 2013. [Photo/Xinhua]

It is not difficult to imagine the tremendous relief of the Chinese workers when they got on board the two Chinese frigates that rescued them from war-torn Yemen. The rescue was just a fresh example of the increasingly sophisticated operations of the People's Liberation Army Navy in the Indian Ocean.

Apart from its primary mission of fighting pirates, Chinese ships have escorted vessels loaded with chemical weapons out of Syria and helped provide fresh water to people in the Maldives. A submarine joined the Chinese task force in September 2014, and the Chinese hospital ship Ark Peace sailed along the east coast of Africa to provide medical treatment to African people.

Thanks to concerted international efforts, piracy in the Gulf of Aden has been curbed. But it has not been eradicated. Besides, piracy in the Strait of Malacca, once curbed by the littoral states, is rising again. And since 2008, the UN Security Council has renewed its mandate for counter-piracy measures in the waters off Somalia year after year. The fear is that, if the international navies stop patrolling the waters, pirates will simply stage a comeback.

China also has other stakes in the Indian Ocean. More than 80 percent of its fuel imports pass through the Strait of Malacca. The proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and China-Bangladesh-Myanmar-India Economic Corridor, two mega-projects of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, will be close to the rim of the Indian Ocean. Chinese gas and oil pipelines pass through Myanmar's west coast to China's hinterland, and many Chinese nationals work in the littoral states. In the Indian Ocean, the PLA Navy has blended two purposes into one: safeguarding national interests and performing its international duties. The PLA Navy has escorted eight ships of the World Food Program for Somalia. Half of the nearly 6,000 ships the Chinese navy has escorted were foreign vessels. In Yemen, the Chinese ships evacuated 279 foreigners from 15 countries along with 613 Chinese nationals.

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