Photograph by Dan Lundberg, via Wikimedia Commons. Accessed on 25.04.17

 

Fu Mengzi, Deputy Head of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), adeptly wrote in March 2015, “China was invaded numerous times throughout its history by forces that came from land. Eventually these invaders were all assimilated into the Chinese culture. But the armies that came from the ocean were different. They brought the whole system to its knees”.

This view is widely shared by China’s political leaders and scholars, who believe that the country needs to rule the waves to truly secure its status as a great power. Having access to a vast network of ports overseas, therefore, has become immensely important for Beijing to realise its maritime ambition.

With this vision in mind, China has gone on a global port buying; and the pace is quickening.

Although Chinese media are hailing the success of the country’s growing network of overseas ports, Beijing needs to spend more effort on assuring the host countries, and their public, that their control of ports will not open a backdoor for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). If Beijing is unable to convincingly play this diplomatic card, then friendliness towards Beijing may turn into wariness and resentment.