Correspondence: Debating China's Naval Nationalism
Glosny, Michael A.
Saunders, Phillip C.
Ross, Robert S.
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In “China’s Naval Nationalism: Sources, Prospects, and the U.S. Response,” Robert Ross seeks to explain why “China will soon embark on a more ambitious maritime policy, beginning with the construction of a power-projection navy centered on an aircraft carrier.” Ross argues that geopolitical constraints should lead China, a continental power, to pursue access denial as its optimal maritime strategy. He relies on “naval nationalism”to explain China’s development of naval power-projection capabilities, which he describes as a suboptimal choice given China’s geopolitical position. We argue that “naval nationalism” is an underdeveloped and unconvincing explanation for China’s pursuit of expanded naval capabilities. Instead, China’s development of a limited naval power-projection capability reflects changes in China’s threat environment and expanded Chinese national interests created by deeper integration into the world economy. In our critique, we first identify flaws in Ross’s geopolitical analysis. Second, we discuss shortcomings in his causal argument. Lastly, we briefly present Chinese rationales for the development of limited power-projection capabilities, which are consistent with a proper understanding of Chinese interests.
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