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China Shifts Strategy in the Ocean

May 11, 2010
By Rachel Eisenhower

In the emerging global landscape, it seems increasingly clear to many that China's catapult to power will bring more challenges for international security to the surface. Dr. Patrick Cronin, senior adviser and senior director, Asia-Pacific Security Program Center for a New American Security, said that China has focused on an asymmetrical rise to power using cyber warfare-hacking without precedent in the world of espionage. Joe Purser, director, Joint Futures Group, U.S. Joint Forces Command, added that China has changed more in the past 40 years than any other nation in the world.

China's push to gain power in the naval arena raised questions about the country's capability and intent in and on the oceans--a theme that dominated the Tuesday morning panel discussion on power shifts at Joint Warfighting Conference 2010 led by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, USA (Ret.). Vice Adm. John Morgan Jr., USN (Ret.), said  it is clear the Chinese plan to craft an anti-access strategy which will aim to limit the effectiveness of U.S. fleets in its backyard, but this rise does not necessarily mean a blue-water war is on the horizon.

Panelists agreed that financial problems in Greece and Britain will weaken Europe's global presence. "Traditional allies won't be traditional allies anymore" thanks to a lack of funds for burden sharing, Cronin stated. Russia, struggling with a birth rate well below 11.5 births per 1,000 people, and North Korea also ranked in the panelists' list of "who's down." At the brink of a political power shift in North Korea, panelists called the United States "ill-prepared" for a range of scenarios that could arise.

NATO landed on the list of "who's changing," and Dr. Michael Vlahos, professor of strategy, Naval War College, called the alliance's global partnerships "overstressed."

While the panelists agreed that the United States remains up, Cronin says it needs to make serious changes and "clean up its economic house." As financial problems continue, the United States may not be able to provide the global security blanket it once used to for the world. This presents an interesting question for additional discussion: Will anyone be able to step up to the plate the way the United States has? As the issues progress, will it force more cooperation with powers like China?

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