By 2030, China will be such an unquestioned superpower that the South China Sea will be nothing more than a “Chinese lake,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies writes in a new report.
China’s dominance in the region is due to Beijing’s projected continual development of aircraft carrier groups and the People Liberation Army’s focus on expanding its ability to operate overseas.
Citing a Chinese white paper, CSIS notes that “the PLA in the near future will be operating well beyond the First Island Chain and into the Indian Ocean … The call for the PLA to adopt this expanded mission set is of greatest concern to the United States, as it will gradually extend the reach of the PLA and emphasise ‘nontraditional security operations.'”
In order to fulfil this expanded mission set, CSIS projects that China will invest heavily in the development and deployment of multiple aircraft carrier groups. This sudden influx of Chinese military assets, coupled with their ability to project power, will ensure that by 2030 “the South China Sea will be virtually a Chinese lake, as the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico is for the United States today.”
Such deployments will allow China to hold an even stronger hand in territorial disputes throughout Asia, particularly in the South China Sea.
Beijing is locked in border frictions in the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Currently, Beijing is in the process of reclaiming and constructing a string of artificial islands throughout the South China Sea. These man-made islands are being outfitted with ports, seawalls, and airstrips which would also allow China to project significant influence throughout the region — despite protests from its neighbours.
As of now, China only has one aircraft carrier of questionable quality.
However, Beijing has confirmed that it is now building a second modern carrier based on its current carrier’s design.
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