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China won't follow Western powers' old path in maritime exploration

(People's Daily Online)

08:02, January 21, 2013

Key Words:oceanic genes; maritime exploration; ocean; Zheng He; maritime power

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The Chinese civilization does not lack oceanic genes, which have long been suppressed by continental genes. At present, the Chinese nation is again exploring oceans. Unlike Zheng He's voyages down the western seas, China is seeking to become a maritime power this time. However, many people have compared Zheng He's voyages and Western countries’ maritime expansion in the modern era with China's current maritime moves. There are five common misconceptions about the country’s maritime strategy.

The first misconception is that oceans are a major source of threats to China's national security. Certain people have cited frequent maritime disputes over the Diaoyu, Huangyan, and other islands as evidence for threats from oceans, but it is definitely wrong to overemphasize maritime threats. After all, island disputes are mainly about maritime rights and interests as well as strategic channels. As an ultra-large society and civilized country, China's security threats mainly come from inside the country. External threats are mostly global and compressive, and do not originate from oceans.

The second misconception is that building a maritime power is the one and only way to achieve national rejuvenation. Many people consider "maritime dreams" to be the last part of "Chinese dreams." Maritime exploration is important to national rejuvenation, but a maritime power does not equate to a world leader. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation means becoming a world leader, and the key is to access, maintain, and control international open areas such as the high seas and space.

The third is that the first step in maritime exploration is enhancing naval strength. Certain people insist that a maritime power must have a powerful navy. This sounds reasonable, but is not necessarily correct on second thoughts.

During the First Sino-Japanese War, China's Beiyang Fleet was not inferior to the Japanese navy, but was still annihilated by Japan. History proves that a country must rely on its own competitiveness and mechanisms to protect its maritime rights and interests. Furthermore, maritime rights and interest used to be on the sea, but are now in the sea. The development and utilization of maritime resources as well as safe sea routes are more important to a maritime power.

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