The Chinese navy intrudes on the maritime rights of its neighbors, bullies other nations and is determined to build a force strong enough to counter the U.S. Pacific Fleet, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer told an audience at the WEST 2013 convention in San Diego on Thursday.
Chinaâ€™s navy, said Capt. Jim Fannell, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and operations at the U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters in Hawaii, is a force that â€śis focused on war at sea.â€ť
Fannell was part of a panel tackling the topic, Chinese Navy: Operational Challenge or Potential Partner, and he spent his 10-minute introductory comments giving a sober assessment on the rising power – an assessment he predicted at the beginning of his remarks may keep him from being invited to a similar event in the future.
He said that China has destabilized the East Asia maritime environment and is â€śseizing the maritime rights of its neighbors.â€ť He pointed to last yearâ€™s Scarborough Shoals affair with the Philippines as an example.
â€śChina is negotiating for control of other nationsâ€™ resources off their coasts,â€ť Fannell said. â€śWhatâ€™s mine is mine, and weâ€™ll negotiate whatâ€™s yours.â€ť
Fannell began his talk by noting that he is part of a team of officers who spend up to an hour every morning engaged in intelligence briefings reviewing developments in the Asia/Pacific region â€śEvery day, itâ€™s about China,â€ť Fannell said. â€śItâ€™s about a China who is at the center of virtually every activity and dispute in the maritime domain in the East Asia region.â€ť
The country regularly engages in intimidation of neighboring states. He called the Chinese coast guard a â€śfull-time harassment organization.â€ť
â€śUnlike U.S. Coast Guard cutters, Chinaâ€™s surveillance cutters have no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to Chinaâ€™s expansive claims.â€ť
â€śIâ€™ve watched this on a daily basis for a decade,â€ť he said. â€śThey are taking control of maritime areas that have never been administered or controlled in the last 5,000 years by any regime called China.â€ť
Dr. Jacqueline Deal, a China expert who is president and chief executive officer of Long Term Strategy Group in Cambridge, Mass., noted how analysts have seen Chinaâ€™s goals expand over the years. At one time, the growth of the Navy was seen as a response to the dispute over Taiwan. Others concluded the buildup was a natural byproduct of a nation with a growing economy.
But what is going on now is â€śa much more ambitious great-power agenda,â€ť Deal said.
She pointed to a 2004 speech by President Hu Jintao who at the time was general secretary of the Communist Party of China. Jintao said the Chinese Navyâ€™s mission had grown to include overseeing Chinaâ€™s oversees interests.
Said Fannell: â€śWe need China to act like a great nation and a responsible stakeholder. But thatâ€™s not the China I have watched everyday for the past decade.â€ť
David Ogul is a freelance writer and editor based in San Diego who has worked for newspapers in Southern California for more than three decades.