Pulled Towards the Seas: Whether China Even Needs "Naval Nationalism" To Challenge US Naval Dominance in the 21st Century
Division: Social Sciences
Dept/Program: Political Science
Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research
Mentor(s): Avery Goldstein
Date of this Version: 01 January 2011
This paper argues that China’s strategic focus in the 21st century is being pulled towards the seas powerfully by both economic and geostrategic forces – even more powerfully, in fact, than previous rising land powers such as France in the mid-1800’s and Germany in the late 1800’s. The paper reviews the history of each of these cases, using secondary sources, and then looks for both the actors and factors that drove the rising land power to challenge the dominant naval power at sea. Who were the main actors: was it more a top-down process led by the leadership or a bottom-up process by the public? What were the main factors: was it driven more by geostrategy, economy, technology, prestige, or fear? Finally, the cross-case comparison section compares the historical cases to China today across the hypothesized actors and factors, finding that China may have the strongest reasons for naval development of all the cases. This exploration of China's legitimate strategic incentives for naval expansion challenges recent literature, including Robert Ross's influential article "China's Naval Nationalism: Sources, Prospects, and the US Response", which argues that any real naval expansion by China is a manifestation of undesirable Chinese nationalism.