By Farooq Yousaf
With global political scenarios changing with a rapid pace, China has been high on its heels in pursuit of increasing influence in the region. The amount of recent investment by Beijing on military and naval technology is more than what it used to be in the past. With successful inauguration of its first major aircraft carrier, it seems China wants to flex its wings more than ever in order to improvise on the power vacuum that the world is currently facing due to a series of ongoing wars and conflicts.
With this magnitude of emphasis on military might, many economic experts and analysts have been proved wrong who were previously of the opinion that China would primarily focus on attaining economic rather than military influence. The international media recently laid huge emphasis on China's pursuit of a Mega Blue Water Navy. Not only did the media portray its growing strength as a threat to the US Navy, but also raised concerns for the Indian navy. It has been said time and again that China is developing a two-pronged navy structure, one for local conflicts and the other for international operations.
Military analysts and experts around the world are of the view that the Chinese spending on the navy should not be seen as an effort to match the US; rather it should been seen as an effort to prepare itself for future local disputes, such as the dispute with Japan over the Sekaku Islands.
Playing it safe, China is also vying for strong military and strategic alliances in the region. During a recent visit to China by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Beijing pledged to strengthen military ties with Moscow in order to further the already bolstering ties. Xu Qiliang, General of the People's Liberation Army, stated that coordination on the strategic level between both the states maintains a positive and progressive outlook.
"China is willing to work with Russia to positively implement the two leaders' important agreement and further promote pragmatic communication and cooperation so as to upgrade their military relations to a higher level," said Xu while meeting Shoigu. He further expressed China's desire to push increased strategic cooperation with Moscow.
The past few years have witnessed the Russian-Chinese alliance reach an unfathomable level. With both the states jointly opposing any sort of military interventions, it seems that a common global interest is the primary element in creating such a strong bond among the two.
It is not only Russia that has become a major focus of Chinese foreign policy, rather Pakistan and Iran are also reaping the fruits of affordable military technology coming from China as a result of fruitful bilateral ties.
Pakistan and China can already boast of a supersonic jet, the JF-17 Thunder, a state-of-the-art modern tech airplane that was built as a result of joint efforts by experts from both the countries. Pakistan army's Heavy Military Complex also contains many important installations that have resulted from joint Pak-China efforts.
Iran has also received a huge helping hand in terms of military development from China. Beijing has helped Tehran in areas such as conducting training of Iranian military officials, supplying raw material for missile development, along with building a factory and test range. It is also reported that China is responsible for aiding in the development of advanced conventional weapons, fighter jets and missile vessels.
Keeping its potential in perspective, it becomes mandatory for China to solve all persisting issues with India, another rising regional economic power. Both the countries have reservations on the Tibetan territory that has also resulted in a few skirmishes.
With the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on the rise, China would want to maintain strong ties with the members as well as the observer states, India and Pakistan. Although it is imminent that India and Pakistan would soon become full members of the body, it is important for both the countries to maintain a local outlook that favours regional integration rather than a pro-west bias.
Although it would be wrong to state that the Chinese navy would be able to match the US contingent in the near future, yet the fact that the former is going on a steady path of naval development is also a reality. The progress made by China, coupled with Russia, is surely a positive sign not only for the region, but also for the world, as the concept of a uni-polar world would surely be diluted in times to come. This multi- or bi-polar power structure would not only help in averting major wars, but would also enhance the chances of Asia's progress.
The writer is working as a research analyst, programme consultant and editor at the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad along with pursuing his Higher Studies in Public Policy and Conflict from the prestigious Willy Brandt School of Public Policy - Germany.
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