China's Quest for Great Power: Ships, Oil, and Foreign Policy

By Cole, Bernard D. | Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

China's Quest for Great Power: Ships, Oil, and Foreign Policy


Cole, Bernard D., Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy


A Great, Not a Super Power China's Quest For Great Power: Ships, Oil, and Foreign Policy. By Bernard D. Cole. Annapolis, Maryland, 2016: Naval Institute Press. ISBN: 9781612518381 (hardcover), 9781682471456 (e-book). 320pp, $34.95 (hardcover), $19.22 (e-book).

FEW AUTHORS ARE truly able to take on the point of view of the subject on which they write without allowing their personal perspectives to muddle the analysis. Bernard D. Cole's China's Quest For Great Power: Ships, Oil, and Foreign Policy is an exemplary work in which he successfully took on the guise of a Chinese national security official and laid out the People's Republic of China's naval strategy, its influences, and its goals.

Retired US Navy Capt. Cole was then able to provide a more neutral and worthwhile analysis, which allowed readers to see the big picture of the PRC's naval goals in its proper context. In addition to having provided evidence for the PRC's naval strategy, its intended benefits, and the shortfalls which could undo it, Dr Cole painted a picture hidden within the PRC's "quest for great power": the PRC, he asserts, wants the status and power of a great power, but does not want the rôle and responsibilities of a superpower.

The PRC wants to become a great power. However, to do this, Dr Cole contended, the PRC needed increased - and secured - access to energy resources, such as oil and natural gas, mostly located in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, in order to grow its economy. That need for more energy, in turn, drove part of the PRC's naval strategy. The Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) on which the PRC relies for its energy imports, and which would be required to deliver 70 percent of Chinas overall energy demand, needed to be adequately protected. This required the PRC to invest heavily in the People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN), by developing new aircraft carriers, submarines, and the like, to successfully defend the SLOCs.

Capt. Cole placed the PRC's naval strategy and investment in the context of the various threats which China sees to its ability to defend the SLOCs. These threats include India's growing naval capability, China's historic rivalry with Japan, and the United States' presence, both directly and through enhanced partnerships with South-East Asian countries, in Asia. …

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