|The Type 052 Qingdao destroyer at sea|
For the first time since China’s re-emergence as a power to be reckoned with, Western powers are being confronted with scenarios involving the risk of clashes with Chinese military forces outside the Asian giant’s backyard.
Key to China’s expansion is a shift in recent years from Mao Zedong’s Army-centric military to one where other branches of the armed service — the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the Second Artillery Corps — are given greater freedom of action.
One branch in particular, the PLAN, has developed alongside Beijing’s ambitions as a global power, allowing it not only to show the flag, such as in multilateral anti-piracy missions off the Gulf of Aden, but also to back up its evolving strategic imperatives.
This became especially clear during the weekend when reportedly a PLAN escort fleet, which included the Type 052 “Qingdao” (hull 113) destroyer, Type 054A “Yantai” (hull 538) missile frigate, and the “Weishanhu” (hull 887) auxiliary oil replenishment ship, crossed the Suez Canal, with Cairo’s permission, on their way to the Mediterranean Sea.
My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.