China is forcing private shipbuilders to build civilian vessels that can be used by the military during times of conflict. Experts say the new “dual-purpose” ships will strengthen China’s efforts to claim territory in disputed areas of the East and South China Seas.
Last week, Chinese state media reported that the government has put new shipbuilding rules in place.Private shipbuilders must now build ships that can be used to support the navy in wartime. The government is considering a plan to pay some of the costs of making the ships ready for military use and to provide insurance to pay for possible damage during military operations.
James Nolt is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. He says the new rules could be a signal from China about its plans for disputed areas.
“It may be intended to warn other countries in the region that China takes its claims in the South China Sea very seriously and may be willing to back them up with force in the future.So, it could be taken as a warning, but I wouldn’t assume automatically that that’s it.”
Mr. Nolt notes that it is less expensive to use so-called “dual-purpose” civilian ships than to build additional military ships.
Mr. Nolt says the new rules could help support the Chinese navy’s goals to build a blue-water fleet and extend its operations outside its current boundaries.
“It does represent a little bit of an evolution for Chinabecause, up until now, China hasn’t tried to do as many blue-water operations as it’s trying to do now.And the farther away they get from their own ports, the more they need some additional support from naval auxiliaries.”
China now has the largest civilian coast guard fleet in the world.A U.S. navy intelligence report released earlier this year said these unarmed ships help support China’s claims in disputed waters. Some experts call the coast guard fleet China’s “Second Navy.”
Lin Chong-bin is an expert on China’s military.He served as a deputy defense minister in Taiwan. He believes the new rules will help China’s leaders because they will be strongly supported by China’s people.He says the new rule helps China appear strong to neighboring Asian countries.
“Both China and (its) neighbors are gesturing.However, they know they cannot let the tension boil over into open military conflict.That would hurt their economies.Therefore, we see this thing I call toughness abroad yields domestic applause.”
Lin Chong-bin says this gesturing is very important for Chinese President Xi Jinping,who is trying to gain support for major changes inside the country.In Lin Chong-bin’s words, Mr. Xi cannot afford to look weak.
Mr. Lin says the gesturing is also helpful to China as it negotiates with other countries.
President Xi will meet with President Barack Obama in Washington this September.It will be his first official visit to the United States since he became China’s ruler.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Jill Robbins 为您报道。
Words in This Story
civilian – adj. not military
fleet – n. a group of military ships that are controlled by one leader
blue-water – adj. relating to or associated with the open sea; oceangoing
auxiliary – n. available to provide extra help or power when it is needed
gesture – n. a movement of your body (especially of your hands and arms) that shows or emphasizes an idea or a feeling