By Nicholas Varchaver
January 15, 2017

Good morning.

In recent years, Chinese muscle-flexing in the South China Sea has been the cause of much consternation in many quarters. It’s not just the obvious geopolitical power issues, but the massive commercial ones: Roughly half of the world’s shipping tonnage transits through that area, according to Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea And The End Of A Stable Pacific, a fascinating book by Robert Kaplan.

But the South China Sea represents only a small part of the Middle Kingdom’s maritime influence—or so contends “How China Rules The Waves,” an impressive piece of work in the Financial Times (I’m grateful to my colleague Geoff Smith for drawing my attention to it). The article, crammed with data and charts, makes a persuasive case that China has quietly become the world’s primary maritime power, far surpassing any other country. Consider:

Investments into a vast network of harbours across the globe have made Chinese port operators the world leaders. Its shipping companies carry more cargo than those of any other nation — five of the top 10 container ports in the world are in mainland China with another in Hong Kong. Its coastguard has the globe’s largest maritime law enforcement fleet, its navy is the world’s fastest growing among major powers and its fishing armada numbers some 200,000 seagoing vessels.

A lot of articles have focused on China’s geopolitical reach in continents like Africa, where the country trades development assistance for raw materials and gains a lot of influence along the way. This powerful article explores another aspect of its growing might. Sure, China’s Navy isn’t close to matching the reach of the U.S. Navy, but in every other way, China is extending its sway over the oceans and the countries that border them. This article is crucial reading to understand the shifting geopolitical and economic tides in the coming decades.





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