New Chinese Milestone
The Chinese Navy has reached another milestone as it attempts to enhance its operational experience and international image. A Chinese warship has escorted a World Food Program shipment along coast of Somalia. According to a EU NAVFOR statement, the missile frigate Ma’anshan escorted the WFP vessel Amina between Berbera and Bossasso.
According to the statement “This is evidence of good co-ordination and co-operation with one of the many partners in the fight against piracy.” The EU had been appealing for assistance in escorting WFP shipments for some time.
China’s involvement is evidence of Beijing’s desire to exercise its capability of projecting naval power far beyond its own shores. Cooperating with the WFP is of strategic importance to China as it is an opportunity to assay fears and improve relations with nations concerned about its rapid rise as a global military power.
China joined the international naval coalition in the Gulf of Aden in December 2008. This heralded the first occasion in which its new warships had patrolled outside of Chinese territorial waters. Only last month one of the ships used to help guard vessels was diverted to help rescue Chinese citizens stranded in Libya. The event marked China’s first ever naval operation in the Mediterranean.
China is currently attempting to balance the need to protect its own citizens overseas, its key shipping routes, and its economic interests abroad. Beijing’s foreign interests lie mainly in unstable countries where it is seeking oil and other key natural resources to supply its growing industries.
Mark Lowe, Thursday 31 March 2011