China’s backing for Sri Lanka

by | May 6, 2009


As Sri Lanka’s assault on the Tamil Tigers continues, Kotare has an interesting observation on an angle of the conflict that I’d missed:

While the US is entangled in an escalating war in Afghanistan, China is quietly strengthening its strategic position in the Indian Ocean. One sign of this is the way Beijing is helping the Sri Lankan government crush the Tamil Tigers while building a port at Hambantota, on Sri Lanka’s south coast.

China’s Achilles heel is its reliance on imported oil and minerals from the Middle East and Africa, and the need to ship those resources across the Indian Ocean and through the Straits of Melaka and the South China Sea. This poses a security problem for Beijing. If China and the US went to war, say over Taiwan, the US Navy could stop the flow of oil and minerals and do real damage to the Chinese economy and war machine. Similarly, India, which has a large navy, could interdict China’s ships in the Indian Ocean.

 To safeguard its shipping, China needs to be capable of projecting power into the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and Africa. From ports and airfields like Hambantota, sited along the Eurasian seaways like a ‘string of pearls’, Chinese forces could gather intelligence, protect its shipping and attack hostile navies.

Author

  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.


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