Bernard D. Cole: Waterways and Strategy: China’s Priorities

From Turkish Weekly:

At a national maritime awards meeting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 20 December 2004, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan emphasized the importance of marine development, regulation of China’s maritime territory, protection of marine ecology, and rapid development of the marine economy. The Vice Premier was acknowledging the fact that China, with more than 9,000 miles of coastline and over 6,000 islands in its strategic picture, depends on the sea for food and trade and has often relied on naval power to defend vital national interests.

This article will focus on China’s view of the maritime arena of statecraft. How does Beijing view its strategy for the ocean, coastal, and riverine theaters? What policies is it pursuing to use this watery realm to increase China’s comprehensive national power?

In addition to its ocean environment, the nation’s history has to a significant extent been defined by its two great rivers. The Yellow River runs 2,400 miles from the Central Asian mountains through North China to the Yellow Sea near Tianjin, draining an area of 400,000 square miles of land; the Yangtze River originates in the same general area and courses 2,750 miles through the middle of the nation, draining 695,000 square miles of land before entering the East China Sea near Shanghai. The Yellow River is not navigable, but it is an important source for drinking and irrigation water. The Yangtze is navigable for hundreds of miles, however, and sea-going ships steam 1,000 miles up the river from the sea. The Yangtze also provides irrigation water, and the completion of the Three Gorges Dams project on the upper river may provide as much as one-ninth of China’s electrical power requirements.

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