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The Growth of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy: Impacts and Implications of Regional Naval Expansion  [2007]

Tritle, Matthew C. NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA [Corporate Author]

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China's growing economic dynamism has made it a powerful actor in the globalized economy. Continued growth of China's economy requires guaranteed sea access to foreign energy resources and markets. In response to the need for sea access, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is undergoing an expansion and force modernization process intended to ensure China's access to vital sea lines of communications (SLOCs). In recent history, post-Meiji Restoration Japan and early 20th century Germany provide two examples of the impact of rising economic powers with expansive maritime strategies. In both cases, efforts by regional competitors to maintain relatively superior naval forces led to heightened tensions and, ultimately, war. Through the unintended promotion of regional naval arms races, both the Empire of Japan and the German Empire contributed to the destabilization of their respective region's security. This thesis argues that, based on the historical record of competitive naval growth, an expanding PLAN will destabilize East Asia as China challenges the dominance of the leading naval power in the Western Pacific: the United States Navy. However, China's rise differs from the rise of Japan and Germany in important ways. Diplomatic efforts by Washington and Beijing to identify shared maritime interests can serve to alleviate the destabilizing effects associated with naval growth. Additionally, security tensions asso
ciated with naval arms races may be mitigated through a thorough U.S. analysis of the actual threat posed by China's growing naval power.