China’s president, Hu Jintao, has called for China to become a “maritime power”, subsequently sparking concerns among its neighbors and in the U.S. over how it deals with its territorial disputes.
China has been paying much attention to its maritime interests following its growing integration in the global economy, with increases in military spending, and the expansion of non-military departments, such as fisheries and maritime surveillance systems.
Since 2009, China’s neighbors have documented navy and civilian Chinese vessels, exercising and monitoring with increasing frequency and reach across the region.
Hu’s interest in expanding maritime power for China stems from ongoing disagreements regarding the control of the waters around the Senkaku Islands, a cluster of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that China, Japan and Taiwan all claim ownership of.
Following the Japanese government’s decision to nationalize some of the islands, China proclaimed a territorial criterion – a line drawn to map the territorial waters off a coast.
Chinese government vessels took up regular patrols of the waters off the coast, which had in the past been primarily patrolled by Japan’s coast guard.
Last week, China’s foreign ministry stated that Japan must understand that the Diaoyu Islands have undergone fundamental change.
China also has disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan over maritime territories in the southern China sea. The water holds rich oil and gas resources and is crossed by important sea channels.
Hu’s report, drafted by a group of officials led by the president’s anointed successor, will represent a broad policy consensus. The report will come a week before Hu retires as party chief.