Will China Really Sink?

I didn’t plan to write three China posts today, in case you’re wondering. And I also didn’t plan the title tie-ins. Go figure.

Anyway, I thought I’d flag two Times of India items I came across yesterday. First, Vietnam will be purchasing six Russian subs. Second, India has reportedly decided to exclude China from this year’s Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.

In case you’re wondering what Vietnam needs six subs for, or why India might be feeling a bit edgy, go read Richard Weitz’ WPR column on China’s naval buildup. In addition to the prestige factor that comes of parading the fleet in front of international guests and projecting missions to Somalia, China’s naval ambitions are driven by some decidedly local factors centering on rivalry in the Indian Ocean.

I mentioned it before here, and Robert Kaplan does some heavy lifting on the subject in this Foreign Affairs article. This is where a lot of strategic attention worldwide is going these days, and it’s reassuring to see Kaplan’s assessment dovetail with my own: Outsourcing the burden of deterrence to regional friends while using American “indispensability” as a regional security guarantee.

This, by the way, is an interesting thought to keep in mind while attempting to read the tea leaves regarding long-term outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan: In 1969, Russian subs for Vietnam would have set off alarm bells in Washington. Today, they set off alarm bells in Beijing. Go figure.