Chinese Maritime Expansion and Potential Dual-Use Implications on Critical Maritime Chokepoints
Hutchings, Zachary Alan
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The current strategic environment has placed the United States and its allies on a seemingly inexorable path towards confrontation with the People’s Republic of China. Based on this framework, this capstone has examined recent Chinese maritime infrastructure developments under a 2013 program of development known as the Belt and Road Initiative. One facet of this initiative is maritime expansion via trade routes and port facilities. However, given the close, or even doctrinal, relationship between Chinese corporations and military entities, there is speculation regarding the purpose of certain expansionary efforts. This speculation is generally based on the concept of Military-Civil Fusion and dual-use assets, whereby a civilian entity may be co-opted for military purposes or integrated into military efforts. This concept, while concerning based on the breadth of Chinese expansion, is not unique. Commercial shipping has been used for military purposes throughout history. For example, the United States created the Jones Act for just such a purpose, whose enactment in World War II was reflected in the creation of the Wartime Shipping Administration. In the context of the maritime infrastructure, this capstone addresses the implications of the potential military use of seventeen civilian ports on eight identified critical maritime chokepoints. This capstone employs imagery analysis to assess what type of threats could be hosted at these locations utilizing both military and civilian shipping to transport these threats. The implications and extent of these threats have been graphically superimposed over maps of strategic sea routes to indicate visually the extent of the potential future strategic obstacles. Consequently, this report concludes that Chinese Belt and Road Initiative developments pose a threat, if desired, to seven of eight identified critical maritime chokepoints.