China Steps Out

China is sending forth what some see as its first bluewater projection of naval force in centuries in response to the pirates off the Horn of Africa.

It seems odd that China would not have made a similar move already given its international clout in other non-maritime regards.  So this can be read as China merely becoming a "stakeholder" in international affairs, finally assuming its rightful burden and duty as a rising major power.

It's also in China's self interest as a sovereign nation - with an economy fueled heavily by exports, it needs global shipping to continue to provide a safe, reliable means of transport.  And significant Chinese economic investment and mineral resource extraction is underway in Africa - in places like Sudan.

Still, in the end, this mission, even if a minor one, should also be read for its symbolic significance - a first step in challenging U.S. naval predominance worldwide.  While China has focused primarily on its submarine forces in the past decade by most indications, this is a different matter.  It's about projecting surface power far from Chinese shores.