Wednesday, September 12, 2018

China Seizes Sri Lanka Port

China recently completed another master stroke in its war for global domination.  They obtained complete rights to the Hambantota port and 15,000 surrounding acres on Sri Lanka which is just off the southern tip of India. (1)  Take a look at the map below and you’ll see that such a port provides control over the entrance to the entire Indochina region, access to the Bay of Bengal, and influence over a large chunk of the Indian Ocean.  Looking longer term, this also gives China a direct threat against India, down the road.  This is the very definition of a strategic port.

Make no mistake, this was a military seizure, pure and simple, conducted via non-kinetic means.

Chinese Port In Sri Lanka

ComNavOps tips his hat to the Chinese for yet another brilliant move and, just like the annexation of the East/South China Seas, it was accomplished without bloodshed or even significant protest!

Using nothing but economic coercion, bribery, intimidation, and debt manipulation China forced Sri Lanka to hand over the rights to the Hambantota port for a period of 99 years.  Of course, by then, the entire region will belong to China and the lease terms won’t matter.

The unethical, unfair, and illegal means China used to accomplish this are detailed in a New York Times website article and it makes for fascinating reading as well as an object lesson on the conduct of non-kinetic warfare. (2)

Yes, China has promised not to use the port for military purposes but they made the same promise about the illegal artificial islands in the South China Sea.  Their word is worthless.  With 100% certainty, they will militarize the port.  As the NY Times notes,

“Sri Lankan officials are quick to point out that the agreement explicitly rules out China’s military use of the site. But others also note that Sri Lanka’s government, still heavily indebted to China, could be pressured to allow it.” (2)

The US has got to wake up and start engaging in this war or we’re going to lose without every taking any action.  We can start by taking a lesson from the Chinese.  One of the strategic weaknesses for the US in the Pacific/China theatre is the lack of basing.  Well, take a look at the IndoChina map below.  There are endless opportunities for US basing in the region: Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, etc.  We just need to start engaging diplomatically, economically, politically, culturally, and any other way we can with these countries.  We don’t need to, and absolutely should not, stoop to the illegal and unethical means that China does but we do need to engage. 

Basing Opportunities Around The South China Sea

If you don’t think China is bent on global domination then take a look at the New York Times map below of Chinese financed ports around the world.  If it doesn’t scare you, then you’re Chinese.  They've seized the East and South China Seas and are in the process of seizing Africa.

Chinese Ports Around the World

We are years late, already, to this war but better late than never.  We need to wake up, sound the alarm, and start fighting every way we can.


(1)The Diplomat website, “Sri Lanka Formally Hands Over Hambantota Port to Chinese Firms on 99-Year Lease”, Ankit Panda, 11-Dec-2017,

(2)New York Times website, “How China Got Sri Lanka to Cough Up a Port”, Maria Abi-Habib, 25-Jun-2018,


  1. I only have the time to drop a quick comment - Myanmar is off the table, they're essentially a Chinese client state and have been so for quite a while now. Ditto Laos (moot point, what with being landlocked).

    1. There's no such thing as a permanent client state. The Philippines were a solid US ally until recently and are now moving rapidly towards China.

      Converting a client state is EXACTLY the kind of total spectrum warfare we should be conducting against the Chinese.

    2. Sure, you're not wrong, but you gotta consider how long it'll take to tilt Myanmar away from China, especially when the US refuses to really recognise Myanmar by insisting on calling it Burma, when Myanmar isn't keen on the US anyway because of all the human rights noises, and when it's being a longtime Chinese client state and knows where it stands with China.

      Sure maybe you could tilt Myanmar away from China, but it's a question of how long it would take and whether it would be worth it diplomatically to support Myanmar, that terrible place killing people in villages where Rambo went to go fight. *shrug*

      There's a compelling argument to be made that the US should focus its efforts on the countries that are friendly to it; Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Phillipines. Duterte's pivot to China will last only so long as he's in power; a new president isn't going to continue his china-friendly policies.

    3. I would have said that Malaysia could be made more friendly to the US by bribing Prime Minister Najib,mbut the change in government means that the current PM is a lot less likely to have bribery work on him, lol.

      Otoh DOJ going after Najib's ill-gotten gains hidden in the US is earning brownie points in Malaysia now, so y'know, the US can use that to try arrest Chinese and Najib's attempts to turn Malaysia into a client state.

      Much easoer scenario given Malaysia doesn't really want to be a Chinese client state, vs Myanmar, which know who provides its rice bowl.

    4. "Sure maybe you could tilt Myanmar away from China, but it's a question of how long it would take and whether it would be worth it diplomatically"

      Who is the bigger threat to the US, Myanmar or China? Myanmar is the lesser of evils, clearly.

      We need to contest China on every possible front. The more places China has to "defend", the weaker their efforts will be everywhere. China will be forced to dilute their own efforts which enhances our efforts. This is pretty basic stuff.

    5. "Duterte's pivot to China will last only so long as he's in power; a new president isn't going to continue his china-friendly policies."

      I doubt you predicted Duterte's behavior before he came to power so I'm fairly sure you can't predict his successor's!

      It would also not take much imagination to believe that China will do everything it can to ensure that his successor is pro-China, also.

      So, Duterte's successor MIGHT reverse course but it's just as likely, probably more so, that his successor will be a Chinese-chosen and supported person who will, in fact, continue the pro-Chinese leaning.

      The US needs to engage in the Philippines on every level if we see it as strategically important (I assume and hope that we do!). Another "front" for China to defend!

    6. My point is that you get faster returns by concentrating on the countries that already like you first - Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Indonesia, Vietnam - that not coincidentally are the heavy-hitters in ASEAN (more or less, PH needs a significant buildup). Also, given how Myanmar is a military junta with loads of human rights abuses and atrocities that America has been complaining about, suddenly going heavy on supporting Myanmar in an attempt to tilt Myanmar away from China isn't going to play well with the rest of America's allies. Closer partnership with MY, TH, SG, IN, PH and VN is a lot more palatable to the international community and a much easier sell.

      Duterte's pro-China stance was not unknown to local political observers. The only people surprised at his pro-china stance are the Americans; locals knew he was pro-China (admittedly, excatly how much pro-China was a bit of a surprise, people expected him to care a bit more about PH than CN. :V) As for a sucessor following his stance, his pro-china is very much out of the norm for Pinoy politics, where PH has been clashing diplomatically with the PRC over the Spratlys (and then there's the whole nonsense they get up to with their boats and the posturing the PH navy tries to do up there). I mean, sure, the Chinese would like more pro-China PH presidents, but the odds are against them - well, unless the next PH president is a repeat of Najib, in which case PH is fucked. :V

      And you're right that things aren't set in stone in politics, but that cuts both ways; China was well on its way to making Malaysia a client state, with the full complicity of Prime Minister Najib, but then the May 9th elections happened, UMNO and its BN coalition lost the elections and fell from power, and China's sure deal is vanishing, because the new PM is putting a halt to a lot of the pro-China business that Najib was doing.

      Anyway, by all means try to woo Myanmar away from China, and keep working to counter Chinese influence in PH, but it's my argument that you don't need Myanmar _as much_ as MY, TH, SG, IN, PH and VN, and it's a better use of effort and resources to secure ASEAN's heavy hitters on your side, and then move towards negating Chinese influence in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia from a position of strength.

      But hey, what do I know; I've just been a close observer of SEA politics for the last 2 decades.

    7. "by all means try to woo Myanmar away from China, and keep working to counter Chinese influence in PH"

      Which is exactly what I said. You have a habit of arguing about things you agree with - an automatic argue reflex.

    8. You did read entirely what I posted, yes? I mean, literally in my second post I did say the US should focus diplomatic efforts on PH... just because I may be in broad agreement with you does not mean that I won't highlight nuance which I feel you have overlooked, in an area where I am personally quite knowledgeable.

      You come across as thinking that it's necessary to convert Myanmar away from being a client state of China. That's not going to happen because of what I've said already. You are better served focusing US resources and diplomatic effort on PH, SG, IN, TH, MY, and VN. Any attempt, if it is to be made to try to woo Myanmar, should only be done after the key ASEAN nations have been secured.

      You have to consider whether the effort to tilt Myanmar away from China is worth it, in terms of diplomatic, evonomic and political capital the US is going to end up spending, and how that'll play with the international community and other US allies. Sure, Myanmar is the lesser of two evils, but this US-CN confrontation isn't happening in a vacuum.

      And, well, if you can get the ASEAN heavy hitters on your side, you don't really need Myanmar. If Myanmar tries naval shens and tries to get uppity on behalf of China, that leaves MY, IN and TH with reason to smack them down to keep the Malacca Strait open. And it's not as if the Thais and Malaysians need to send ships out - Myanmar is in airstrike range of both nations, and any attempt by the Myanmar Navy to restrict shipping to benefit China is going to swiftly see the Thai and Malaysian air forces doing live fire maritime strike excercises on Myanmar ships.

      I will sum it up:

      - trying to tilt Myanmar away from China is a waste of diplomatic capital and effort because Myanmar has been a secure Chinese client state for decades
      - you get better results by securing the big ASEAN nations - MY, TH, IN, PH, VN - that are already on civil to friendly terms with the US and ensuring you get that done deal.
      - any attenpt to tilt myanmar away from china should only be undertaken once the ASEAN heavy hitters are secured on the US side, as that gives the US a position of strength to bargain from, as now the US needs Myanmar less than Myanmar needs the US and ASEAN (or, at least, forces China to spend more diplomatic and economic capital to keep Myanmar firmly in its pocket, which dilutes Chinese power).

    9. "You come across as thinking that it's necessary to convert Myanmar away from being a client state of China."

      You also have a bad habit of trying, unsuccessfully to read my mind. Nowhere did I make that statement or even imply it. I'll make this as clear as I can: if I haven't said it, I don't believe it.

      You're trying to create an argument out of something I haven't said! Stop!

    10. Regarding Laos, my wife is from there. She left at 28 years old, goes back every few and has immediate family still there (mother, sister and brothers). She is my source of info - so apply grain of salt.
      The people resent the Chinese economic "Take over". There is a large Lao diaspora in the U.S.; they can travel back and forth easily, and they remit money to relatives there. There is a pool of warm feelings to the U.S. there.
      Of course, geography plays against us there.

    11. @RobTzu 1: Grains of salt, true, but I'm not surprised at that being the grassroots man in the street perspective. The problem will be getting that grassroots feeling to have an impact on the national government - that's the problem when you have a single-party socialist republic.

  2. Sure, they have access to the port for basing, but does that matter if the base isn't survivable? Against either the United States or India, that small port is too far from China's main A2AD zone to last more than a few minutes in a peer state war.

    1. You're missing the larger picture. If you (China) can establish enough bases while avoiding war, you can eventually gain undisputed possession of the area with all the geopolitical ramifications that go with it. China's non-kinetic seizure of the South China Sea should be an object lesson to and for us.

      Look at the bases/ports in Africa. Eventually, China will have complete control of the continent and all its resources without ever firing a shot.

      War occurs in every facet, not just on the kinetic battlefield.

      Further, even in the event of a war, every far flung Chinese base complicates and dilutes our war effort (and, to be fair, theirs also). This particular port would interdict some of our supply lines. Would we be willing to attack a neutral, sovereign nation (Sri Lanka) to eliminate the Chinese base? Doing so carries geopolitical costs on the world stage.

      Every missile we launch from our limited Tomahawk inventory, for example, to eliminate this base is one less we have available for use against the main objectives in and around mainland China, Taiwan, and the S/E China Seas. China gains something by simply forcing us to expend resources to remove the base.

      Don't stop your analysis at the local level. Look to the bigger picture!

  3. "Chinese Ports Around the World"

    I've seen variations of this map several times, and keep wondering why the heck there's a dot for a Chinese-financed port in the middle of Asia, thousands of km away from open seas and also far from major rivers or large lakes.

    1. China built a'dry port' facility to load/unload containers from trains due to different rail gauges.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. "Every missile we launch from our limited Tomahawk inventory,"

      That is a real head scratchier. Given the importance of the missile and its new upgraded abilities (anti ship etc) it is hard to understand why we don't have a vast stockpile of them. I rather don't think Raython has some surge production capacity.

  5. Please, China's COSCO is in negotiation with the Port of Long Beach and the US-gov to operate one of port's cargo terminal, that don't make it a take-over in advance of Red Dawn.

  6. The 99 year lease, wonder where they got that idea ?
    Someone has a sense of humor,
    The Sun never sets on the Chinese Empire.

    S. Raffles

  7. "If you don’t think China is bent on global domination then take a look at the New York Times map below of Chinese financed ports around the world"

    Dude, the US has over 800 oversea military bases in over 80 countries. I don't see you claiming the US is hell bent on world domination.

    1. I don't claim the US is bent on world domination because they aren't.

    2. What are so many troops and bases oversea, if not a de-facto empire ?

      Furthermore, consider that all chinese oversea military actions (however unjustifiable many of them are) seem (so far) to have been about securing China's trade routes. This fits into what I think the chinese strategy is : avoid at any cost a repeat of the Century of Humiliations, and build a defense accordingly. This does NOT mean the chinese want war IMO.

  8. If you spend a few months living in China, you'll quickly find that Chinese people and government have no appetite for "global domination". They don't define themselves with a universal ideology, they define themselves through ethnic-nationalism. Now the USSR more or less acted as America's rival during the Cold War because Soviet communism was an 'universal' ideology set against another universal ideology, U.S led capitalist democracy. Modern-day China barely cares about spreading Marxism, and without this ideological narrative, China can't get enough money and public support to replace the Soviet Union's role as equal to the U.S. What Chinese hawks look back at is the past glories of the Ming dynasty, they aims to rebuild China's status as the dominant power of the Asia-Pacific, but it can't go any further than that without a complete transformation of Chinese culture and society, that'll take at least century. My point is, ethno-nationalist sentiments can only take you so far, it can enable regional dominance and some degree of expansionism, but nowhere near enough to make China or any other country capable of rivaling the U.S. Frankly I find your evidence of China's path to world domination to be rather naive, especially since much of this blog's content is very insightful. Then again, nothing wrong with 'better safe than sorry' I supposed.

    1. "If you spend a few months living in China, you'll quickly find that Chinese people and government have no appetite for "global domination"."

      Let me start by saying that you offered a very well written and, within the limits of your premise, a very logical comment. This is exactly the kind of comment that I encourage as it furthers the discussion. Well done!

      Now, the problem with your premise and conclusion is that it is entirely contradicted by China's words and actions. China has actively and illegally staked out fraudulent claims to territory, illegally seized territory and built military bases, is using military intimidation to expand into Vietnamese (and other) territories, has staked out purely concocted claims on Japanese territory, has begun hinting at territorial claims all the way out to the second island chain, is building military bases throughout the world, has demonstrated utter disregard for treaties they are a signatory to (UNCLOS, among others), made claims to EEZ and territorial exclusivity that defy international norms, have created a dictator for life, ... I'm going to stop there because I'm getting tired of typing and I assume you know the litany as well as I do.

      The point, as I said, is that the totality of China's actions clearly indicate a goal of global domination. Your premise that the people have no appetite for global domination is entirely contradicted by their country's actions. I see no evidence of any desire by China to co-exist and co-operate. What I see is a desire for by China to dominate the world financially, militarily, and in every other way.

      Feel free to tell me how all these actions don't indicate an unfettered desire for global domination.

      "much of this blog's content is very insightful."

      Well, thanks! I'll keep trying.

  9. The Chinese are indeed playing a long-term game that is contrary to U.S. interests: the question is not what our response should be, but rather what we as a nation should be doing.

    The U.S. has a crushing national debt, a failed state (Mexico) on our uncontrolled border, more failed states amongst our neighbors in Latin America, and serious, serious structural deficiencies affect our long-term economic health to include: a failing electrical grid, inefficient rail and port systems, pack minus communication infrastructure, deficiencies in worker training/education, and failed heavy industries (ship building, tool making, robotics etc.).

    None of these problems will be solved without serious capitol investment that is all but impossible if we insist on spending money overseas.

    The USA did not become an economic power house because of foreign empire building, it became a titan because it largely avoided wasteful spending on overseas wars. Our example should be the economic expansion pre-WWI, not post WWII.

    I assert that the U.S. must abandon its ruinous overseas intervention policies whether it is the GWOT, or the previous quest to prevent nuclear proliferation: these have proven ineffectual and are ruinously expensive; moreover this “empire building” is a drag on real national power which lies in economics.

    Maintaining most of our overseas bases and the associated overhead is contrary to our long-term interests and must go.

    I would like to see the word “defense” include actual civil defense to protect our civilians. I would like to see money spent on artificial islands and SOSUS defenses guarding the arctic circle passage near Alaska and also Hawaii.


  10. The map showing Chinese ports has an error. Melbourne, Australias largest general cargo port isnt leased to China. That would be Darwin on the other end of Australia.

    1. I have no idea about the details of the map but I note that China has purchased a major stake in the Port of Melbourne in 2016. From a Sep 2016 article,

      "CIC Capital, China’s $US200 billion sovereign wealth fund, has emerged as a member of the QIC and Future Fund-led Lonsdale Consortium, which has agreed to pay $9.7bn for a 50-year lease over Australia’s busiest port.

      The Chinese wealth fund has committed almost $2bn for a 20 per cent slice of the Port of Melbourne ..."

      So, it appears that China has a 99 lease on Darwin and a permanent major stake in Melbourne.

  11. As well the Mediterranean map doesnt show Piraeus the port of Athens
    Kumport just outside Istanbul is under their control as with a port in Albania as shown on the map.

  12. I wonder what India (another superpower w/nucs) thinks about or is going to do about this. Remember please, they have fought wars with the PRC.... More in their neighborhood too..


    PS- Your comments do not appear to work with Chrome

    1. I use Chrome and have no problems with comments. I'm reading this and replying in Chrome. What, specifically, is not working for you? Can't see them? Can't write one? Can't reply? What?

      You've been on the blog for months/yrs. Have you always had a problem or is this something new? If new, when did you first notice it?

    2. There are posts on the Internet about problems commenting in Blogger with Win10/Chrome. The most common cause/solution seems to be blocking of cookies or filtering/recognition of the blog site. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about Win10 or Chrome from my end.

  13. Might be glitch wW10. No big deal. Works 4.0 wExpl

    1. There are posts on the Internet about problems commenting in Blogger with Win10/Chrome. The most common cause/solution seems to be blocking of cookies or filtering/recognition of the blog site. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about Win10 or Chrome from my end.

  14. The Indian defense establishment is not pleased I'll bet. Almost like the PRC building a base on the Baja peninsula near the US...


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