Game of Straits: Chinese Military Bases and the SLOC Dilemma

People's Liberation Army (Navy) ship PLA(N) Qiandaohu (AO 886) (foreground) and Republic of Korea Navy ship ROKS Wang Geon (DDH 978) steam in close formation as two of 42 ships and submarines representing 15 international partner nations during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Renfroe/Released)


China’s dependency on the sea lanes of communication (SLOC) for trade and energy supply is a well-known fact, just like the security problem it creates for the PRC: all ships to and from its territory must cross several chokepoints that could be easily blocked off by a hostile power in the case of a military conflict. Considering the mounting rivalry with the United States and its allies, this prospect has become a serious challenge for China’s security planners. Unsurprisingly, the leadership in Beijing is taking measures to solve the issue, which could possibly include setting up new military bases abroad.

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