Supplement to Geostrategic Pulse no. 225 - CONTROL OF KEY MARITIME STRAITS – CHINA’S GLOBAL STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE

CONTROL OF KEY MARITIME STRAITS – CHINA’S GLOBAL STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE
Dr. Alba Iulia Catrinel Popescu, PhD

Academia Română – CRIFST, Bucureşti, România

Abstract: On the 28th of March 2015 the Chinese government published "VISION AND ACTIONS ON JOINTLY BUILDING the NEW SILK ROAD, the ECONOMIC AND 21ST - CENTURY MARITIME SILK ROAD"1. This document signifies China's decision to become a global hegemon. With its issue this Chinese African - Eurasian "silk bridge" strategy redirected geopolitical analysts’ attention away from another Beijing's strategic objective: control of key maritime straits, especially those featuring "maritime chokepoints", where concentrations of commercial and military naval routes flow. Which are the main maritime straits covered by the Chinese "offensive"? What are the geostrategic implications of this approach?

Key words: Belt and Road Initiative, China, maritime straits, maritime chokepoints, maritime hubs, oil traffic, global shores, hegemony.

1. Introduction
China’s bold hegemonically transformational project is officially entitled "VISION AND ACTIONS ON JOINTLY BUILDING THE SILK ROAD ECONOMIC BELT AND 21ST-CENTURY MARITIME SILK ROAD", and publicly known as the Belt and Road Initiative. Drafted since March 2015, the document explains Beijing’s aims to take greater control of global maritime spaces. In this regard, the project authors have identified two strategic axes that start in the South China Sea flowing to the Indian Ocean and to the Pacific Ocean respectively, which in combination are designed to create a maritime belt around Afro-Eurasia. For this purpose, as described in the aforementioned strategy, China will implement a plan to secure shipping routes that will unite ports located on the route of the two axes, for the purpose of strengthening China – Pakistan. and China – Myanmar – Bangladesh – India economic corridors. But this information and events in the South China Sea have redirected analysts’ attention away from another Chinese global strategic objective represented by the silent economic conquest and military securing of maritime straits, especially of maritime chokepoints responsible for the overall management of naval, commercial and military flows and, in subsidiary, of the global shores.

Which are the main maritime straits covered by the Chinese "offensive"? Which are the geostrategic implications of this approach?

2. Which are the main global maritime straits characterized as chokepoints?
A chokepoint is a marine area which causes natural maritime traffic congestion through a major strategic waterway. The geo-strategic and geo-economic values of chokepoints lie in the:

  • economic consequences generated by their blockage, and forcing the use of alternative maritime routes, namely a considerable increase in distances, sailing duration, transportation costs and traded goods’ costs, with impact on the suppliers and recipients economies (i.e. the price of oil, strategic minerals etc);
  • bridgehead characterization involving, in case of taking them over by a hostile power, a significant allocation of resources and additional costs to remove her control and to resecure them for the use of all nations.

But there are other effects, too. Maritime congestion in subjacent maritime chokepoints entails increasing forms of crime at sea, from piracy to terrorism, followed by the exponential growth of vessels and cargo insurance policy costs. Therefore, controlling and securing the maritime chokepoints represent a strategic  goal for every major geostrategic player.

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