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Erickson A, Goldstein L, and Lord C, Apr-2011. When Land Powers Look Seaward, Proceedings Magazine, USNI

Erickson A, Goldstein L, and Lord C, Apr-2011. When Land Powers Look Seaward, Proceedings Magazine, USNI

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Nov 03, 2012
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April 2011 www.usni.org
A continental-to-maritime transformation has been attemptedfrequently through the ages, but only rarely with success.The past offers lessons to a navally expanding China.
When Land Powers
Look Seaward
By Andrew Erickson, Lyle Goldstein, and Carnes Lord
s European naval powers decline rapidly and theU.S. Navy diminishes quantitatively, China isgoing to sea. This ends a great historical trend thatbegan six centuries ago, in which China withdrewinward and European naval expansion spread Western in-fluence worldwide.Now, for the first time in history, a robust and enduringdebate pervades Beijing: Is China a continental power, amaritime power, or both? To what extent will its persist-ing political and strategic geography and the continentaliststrategic culture it helped to form constrain its develop-ment as a maritime power?
Historical Insights
The ancient Persians lacked a maritime tradition, buttheir leaders were open to new ideas. Initially viewing thesea as a barrier, they came to see itas a communications highway anddeveloped extensive naval experi-ence.
By devoting major financialresources, they were subsequentlyable to build the first truly sub-stantial navy in history. The scaleand economic dynamism of theseefforts suggest parallels to China.The Ottoman Empire had signifi-cant resources but also insuperablecontinentalist limitations. Ottomanland frontiers continued to posea threat, consuming attention andresources. Ottoman use of oaredgalleys to transport ground forceswas suitable for the Mediterranean,but not for the much larger and lessland-constrained Indian Ocean. Un-able to keep up with economic glo-balization, the Ottomans forfeitedtheir chance to dominate the firstglobal market.As the center of naval competitionmoved into the Atlantic and beyondduring the modern era, several majorcontinental powers made earnest at-tempts at maritime transformation,with limited success. France, for ex-ample, made four major attempts atmaritime transformation and failedeach time. Weakness and disorga-nization in the central governmentwere chronic problems; anti-com-mercial and anti-imperial attitudes were widespread amongthe elite; a weak financial system hobbled naval construc-tion and supply; and relations between the navy and thearmy were consistently poor or nonexistent.The French case may be particularly relevant to China.It suggests that internal consolidation is a prerequisite formaritime focus. Like France, China enjoys good ports andready access to the sea, but also an inland capital anda system of inland waterways that lessened the nation’sdependence on seagoing commerce. Like France, Chinahas three relatively distinct maritime frontiers, and a his-tory of suboptimal coordination between fleets stationedin each, facilitating defeat in battle. Both nations share ahistory of fitful naval development together with skepti-cism or outright hostility toward naval power or maritimeexpansion among important elements of their elites. Themost compelling explanation for thatcontinentalism: long-standing elite
 YellowSeaSea of  Japan
JinzhouDengzhouHainingNanjingChongmingHiradoNagasakiShanghaiNingboTaizhouYanpingQuanzhouJilongXiamen (Amoy)ZhangzhouShantouCantonMacauWuzhouLianzhouLeizhou
Manila-Lin Feng Affair (1574-75) Sino-Dutch War (1623-24) Sino-Portuguese War (1521-22) Annam Invasion (1406) Fort Zeelandia/Anping (1624-62) Zhu Yuanzhang’s Conquest of the Southeast Coast (1367-68) Counter-piracy Operations (1540-80s) Zheng Chenggong’Northern Offensive (1658-59) Battle of Noryang (1598) Chen Xun’s Counter-piracy Operations (1406) Battle of Lake Poyang (1363) Battle of Qutang Gorge (1371) 
Grand Canal 
 EastChinaSeaPACIFICOCEAN SouthChinaSea LingayenGulf Gulf of Tonkin
TanegashimaRyukyu Islands
Battle of Penghu (1683) 
Liaodong Peninsula Early Ming frontier Later Ming boundary 
 H u a n g  R i v e r
    W  e   i     R   i  v  e  r
 Y a n g z i R i ve r
Imperial frontierImperial boundaryProvincial boundaryGreat WallCanalRiver
Naval Operations of theMing Dynasty, 1360-1683
Note: Imperial and provincial boundaries are approximationsonly, particularly in the northeast.
China’s emergence as a powerful maritimeentity is, in fact, a re-emergence. Decadesbefore the explorations of Columbus, 15th-century Admiral Zheng He commandedthe largest wooden ships in history onfar-ranging voyages for the greater glory ofMing emperors.
April 2011 www.usni.org
preoccupation with threats to—or opportunities affordedby—the land frontier.Imperial Germany’s access to the oceans was handi-capped by chokepoints controlled by unfriendly powers.Unlike Russia, Germany overextended itself by attemptingto use naval transformation to obviate, not complement,land power. The navy simply could not compensate forGermany’s two-front continental challenge.The German case has several parallels to China, and onemajor difference. Both had ancient maritime traditions, butwere geopolitical latecomers. Both used comprehensive(economic, technological, and educational) means to assistmaritime transformation. At the center was government-ledindustrialization supported by a capitalist maritime econ-omy. But thus far, drawing in part on historical lessons,China has avoided precipitating disastrous great-power war.
China’s Experience
Historians have exaggerated Chi-nese neglect of the sea. The South-ern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) hadHangzhou, a seaport on the YangtzeRiver, as its capital. Large shipyardssupported a significant naval force,which the Mongols inherited whentheir Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368)overthrew the Song. The Mongolslaunched (albeit unsuccessfully) thelargest amphibious operations of theMiddle Ages—against Japan, Viet-nam, and Java. In the 1300s, the Chi-nese made cutting-edge innovationsin shipbuilding and naval armaments,and invented the magnetic compass.The Ming Dynasty had a strongnaval element from start to finish. Itfirst established itself by defeatingits rivals in southern China largelythrough the use of naval power.Larger than all but a few sea bat-tles in history, the decisive battleof Lake Poyang in 1363 involvedhundreds of warships on both sides.The peak of Ming maritime ac-complishment came with the sevenvoyages of eunuch admiral ZhengHe (1405–33). Supported by Em-peror Yongle, Zheng commandedexpeditions of hundreds of shipsand tens of thousands of men onhistory’s largest wooden ships, someperhaps more than 440 feet longand displacing 20,000 tons. Thesevoyages nurtured trade, (re)openedrelations with tributary kingdoms,demonstrated hard and soft power,and brought the Ming flag throughthe Strait of Malacca across the Indian Ocean to the PersianGulf and East Africa. But Zheng’s costly voyages broughtfew tangible benefits to the empire, the imperial bureau-cracy opposed them as risky and wasteful, and he made just one voyage after Emperor Yongle’s death.In the 1500s, harsh but unevenly enforced imperial edictsdiscouraged long-distance maritime commerce and droveChinese and foreign merchants into piracy. Though still a for-midable sea power in aggregate capabilities and trade, MingChina lost its lead in nautical technology and took years torescind prohibitions and dissipate piracy along its own coast,which flourished during the Wokou Raids of the 1540s–80s.Qing China’s (1644–1912) geostrategic orientation wasthe subject of major debate between Li Hongzhang, headof the Beiyang Navy; and Zuo Zongtang, leader of theexpeditionary force to recover Xinjiang. The Qing choseland power, and both General Li and the nation sufferedthe consequences.
BeijingTianjinDalianPort ArthurWeihaiYantaiQingdaoNanjingShanghaiHangzhouNingboTaizhouWuhanFuzhouQuanzhouXiamen(Amoy)ShantouJilongDanshuiGuangzhou(Canton)MACAULeizhouQiongzhouHanoi
Dagu Repulse (1859) 
 H u a n g  R i v e r
     W  e    i     R    i   v  e   r
  H u a  i   R  i v e r
 Y a n g z i R i ve r
SouthChina Sea Leizhou Bay EastChina Sea Yellow Sea
Grand Canal 
Battle of the Yalu (1894) Japanese Seizure of Weihai (1895) Japanese Seizure of Port Arthur (1894) Yangzi Campaign (1841-42) French Blockade of Taiwan (1884-85) French Halted Near Danshui (1884) French Occupation of Jilong (1884) Luermen Landing (1661) Zeelandia/Tainan Captured by Zeng Chenggong (1662) French Seizure of Penghu (1885) Japanese Annexation of Penghu and Taiwan Island (1895-1945) Battle of Chuanbi (1839) Battle of Penghu (1683) 
Bombardment of Canton (1857) 
Provincial boundaryGreat WallCanalRiver
Naval Operations in andAround Qing China

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