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• http://asiapolicy.nbr.org • asia policy, number 9 (january 2010), 167–72 Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, William S. Murray, and Andrew R. Wilson, eds. China’s Future Nuclear Submarine Force Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2007 • 400 pp. Gabriel B. Collins, Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and William S. Murray, eds. China’s Energy Strategy: The Impact on Beijing’s Maritime Policies Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008 • 576 pp. Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Carnes Lord, eds. China Goes to Sea: Maritime Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2009 • 544 pp. review essay Scott W. Bray© The National Bureau of Asian Research, Seattle, Washington Turning to the Sea…This Time to Stay [ 168 ] asia policy scott w. bray is the U.S. Navy’s Senior Intelligence Officer for China. He can be reached at . note u The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the policies or position of the U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. government and are the sole responsibility of the author. Turning to the Sea…This Time to Stay Scott W. Bray For years now, China analysts have debated the rise of China and Beijing’s global ambitions. We have debated the future of the U.S.-China relationship, both in terms of how the two countries see each other now and how their paths are likely to unfold. We have even discussed the military modernization program on which China has embarked—some of which was put on impressive display in October 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Among these many debates, however, there has been relatively little understanding of the complexities of China’s transition from a land power to a maritime power. In a series of three edited volumes published to date, the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the U.S. Naval War College has taken on the challenge of explaining what drives China’s turn toward the oceans, some of the elements of military might that Beijing is developing, and the process by which other nations have tried—and usually failed—to realize the same transformation. China’s naval modernization efforts first gained public attention earlier this decade when China acquired a large number of highly capable submarines in a very short period of time. CMSI began exploring this issue with a volume entitledChina’sFutureNuclearSubmarineForce,editedbyAndrewS.Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, William S. Murray, and Andrew R. Wilson. This series of essays captures important aspects of China’s submarine force that explain the rationale for Beijing’s large submarine investment, beginning by recounting its maritime goals and doctrine, then examining the applicability of a submarine force to these goals. China’s already impressive fleet of diesel submarines is treated lightly in the book, though the criticality of this force to a Taiwan contingency is acknowledged and the underlying reason that Beijing chose to focus on submarines is drawn out in a chapter by Christopher McConnaughy. McConnaughy writes about China’s nuclear ballistic missile submarines, but his explanation of the harsh acoustic environment that would make it difficult for the United States to locate and track these submarines applies equally to China’s diesel and nuclear attack submarines. These environmental factors [ 169 ] review essay • turning to the sea and the inherent challenges of targeting submarines lead McConnaughy to conclude that “prominent analysts…believe that China will be hard pressed to catch up to the technology of the West….However, because of the nature of undersea warfare, with its complexities and variables,…China does not have to catch up to the West to be a serious threat…” (pp. 95–96). This book, therefore, explains in broad terms how the requirements to oppose U.S. intervention in a Taiwan contingency led to a strong submarine investment, but it leaves a number of questions unanswered, mostly because authoritative sources on China’s submarine force are rare, particularly regarding the operational philosophy and new naval hardware China now employs. Although contributors such as Paul H.B. Godwin discuss the role of nuclear attack submarines in a Taiwan scenario, the only other utility of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
pp. 167-172
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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