In the context of yesterday's article in The Australian that China was being invited to America's biggest annual Pacific naval exercise, RIMPAC (which wasn't really news), it is useful to be reminded of the climate of wariness and mistrust in which such invitations are extended. 

The US trade publication Defense News last week posted a video on its blog from a US Naval Institute conference featuring an extraordinarily blunt assessment of China's maritime strategy and ambitions from US Navy Captain James Fanell, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Information Operations for US Pacific Fleet. The moderator describes Fanell as the 'top intelligence officer' in the Pacific Fleet, which means he is advising some of the US military's senior decision-makers on China's military strategy and capability.

Fanell's language is, well, bracing. He calls China 'hegemonic' and says it displays 'aggression'; he claims China 'bullies adversaries' and that it has become a 'mistrusted principal threat'. Watch Captain Fanell's presentation from about 21 minutes into the above video, or read below for some more select quotes:

  • '(China's) expansion into the blue waters are largely about countering the US Pacific fleet.'
  • 'The PLA Navy is going to sea to learn how to do naval warfare...Make no mistake: the PRC navy is focused on war at sea, and sinking an opposing fleet.'
  • On China Marine Surveillance, which supervises and patrols China's claimed maritime territory: 'If you map out their harassments you will see that they form a curved front that has over time expanded out against the coast of China's neighbours, becoming the infamous nine-dashed line, plus the entire East China Sea...China is negotiating for control of other nations' resources off their coasts; what's mine is mine, and we'll negotiate what's yours.'
  • 'China Marine Surveillance cutters have no other mission but to harass other nations into submitting to China's expansive claims...China Marine Surveillance is a full-time maritime sovereignty harassment organisation'.
  • 'In my opinion, China is knowingly, operationally and incrementally seizing maritime rights of its neighbours under the rubric of a maritime history that is not only contested in the international community but has largely been fabricated by Chinese government propaganda bureaus in order to "educate" the populous about China's rich maritime history, clearly as a tool to sustain the Party's control.'