Chinese Maritime Rimland

One hundred and twenty years ago Alfred Thayer Maham, teacher in US Naval War school in Newport, displayed a complete maritime strategy for USA, imitating UK policy under Victoria Queen, for dominating the world through the sea control and a ring of naval basis along islands and countries all around the Heartland of Mackinder, theory emerged in the same period. In the thirties Nicholas John Spykman rebalanced Mackinder approach, formulating the concept of Rimland, a maritime ring around Eurasia continent to counter balance the terrestrial powers like Russia and China and eventually projecting military actions from the sea to the continent. Reading now the Maham articles they seem prophetic regarding the future emerging role of China in dominating Eurasia and certainly these two authors are very studied in Chinese Marine Schools, observing present and future civilian and military strategies of China. I analysed in a previous article the Chinese interest for improving control on Heartland through Russia cooperation, forced by clear mistakes in USA international policy. Here I will display some facts in logistic strategy of China, structurally supporting Chinese economy dominance and every future military deployment.

Here we have a map of world harbours participated from China in property and management, sometime also with Chinese manpower employed, presented in the annual Lloyd Report on container seaports of 2017.

The map is self-explaining, but we can add some comments:

  • The majority of most container-based trafficked ports are Chinese, and this fact is connected to the size reached from Chinese economy, for the moment second to USA in the world but in an overpassing mode in the next future. By the way in the first 100 container sea ports only Gioia Tauro with about 2,7 million TEU and Genoa with about 2,2 million TEU appear for Italy.
  • Chinese capitals are assuring participation or control of many of  major ports in South East Asia to overcome Vietnam, Malaysia and India and in Europe, Atlantic Rim to USA atlantic routes, in Mediterranean area Pireo in Greece, not in the first 20, and Los Angeles for the Pacific Rim of USA.
  • From the map it’s possible to look only to the major international container ports, but the sense of a Maritime Rimland emerges and representing also minor ports, this approach will be confirmed , as in the case of Athens Pireo already mentioned.
  • The control is intensifying in proximity of narrow passages considered dangerous for China economy, like Singapore area, the Indian Peninsula,Suez Channel, Atlantic and Pacific routes to USA, the main Chinese market.
  • The near future will be to complete Rimland in Artic area, through Russian major fleet of ice-crackers, nuclear energy powered, and port installations in North Siberia.
  • This complete logistic penetration around the world is also integrated in the new Silk Road strategy, mainly concentrated on Eurasia continental infrastructures as roads and railways.
  • Based on Mahan and Spykman geopolitical strategies, this policy is directly competing with USA Maritime Military Ring, and the tensions are very clear in Southern Chinese sea, with progression of Chinese military installations in the small islands until Vietnam.

A counterbalancing strategic approach could have been deployed only through an alliance UE-Russia, the traditional enemy of UK empire, at those times Germany-Russia cooperation, which UK strategist always avoided with full success. USA is trying always to copy a century after the role of UK, but this attitude against Europe risk now to create a Russia policy concentrated on Eurasia and Artic positioning, and this for insufficient Russian resources and demography problems push automatically in favour of Chinese repositioning on terrestrial and maritime dominating vision. We don’t have so much time to avoid this cooperation becoming really effective, reducing space first of all for UE and then for USA. In this geopolitica context only Japan and a new reunited big Korea can be fundamental basis for the Western Maritime Rimland. The same role in Middle East should be exercised by Israel and Saudi Arabia, reducing Turkey and Iran power policy, probably in the future objectives of China penetration through Kazakhstan.