• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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‘Trust but verify’ shifting global maritime security order

X-raying coastal communities’ role in combating maritime security threats

When President Biden of the US was briefing pressmen after his historic meeting with President Xi Jinping of China at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco last week, he said: “Trust, but verify is where I am with China’s agreements.” The phrase “Trust but verify” is a rhyming Russian proverb. The proverbial phrase became popular globally within the context of nuclear disarmament negotiations between the USA and the former Soviet Union in the olden days. At the end of the meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi, both world leaders agreed to resume military-to-military communications in an attempt to reduce rising tensions.

Industry experts believe that Africa may be moving towards industrialization when Chinese investors move their manufacturing plants to Africa

We are living in a peaceful but dangerous world. There are tensions on land and at sea. Long-standing issues from Taiwan to the South China Sea, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s romance with nukes, human rights abuses, and the Israel- Hamas conflict are some of the security threats to global peace and stability.

The impact of these threats on shipping in the East Mediterranean, Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean are of great consequences to global trade. As maritime experts trust, but verify events in the world’s oceans, there are concerns about security in the global waters. Why? Maritime security is of great concern to the global shipping industry where there is currently a wide range of security threats and challenges.

Amid the war between Israel and Hamas militant groups in the Gaza Strip, both the USA and China are parading warships in the region. This is an indication of these two global powers in the Middle East. In Taiwan, the USA is beating its drums in support of the independence of the island nation. While China is determined to realize a peaceful unification with Taiwan. There are global challenges that necessitated the meeting of the leaders of the two most powerful countries which President Biden regarded as “progressive and constructive.”

Read also: Global naval community, 27 coastguards expected at Maritime Security Confab – Peterside

From a realist perspective, nations act in their self-interest, and a powerful military is considered imperative for safeguarding those interests. Over the past two decades, China has become an economic powerhouse. China, with a population of over 1. 4 billion (2021 estimate), has undergone a naval transformation which, in my view, extends beyond its economic power. Albeit, China’s naval force expansion and global projection have been very remarkable.

The expansion of China’s naval capabilities while unsurprising from a realist perspective has raised concerns among many naval strategists and international relations experts. Their concerns are about China’s true intentions and the resulting implications for global maritime security.

What are the strategic consequences of China’s enhanced naval posture in the broader context of Sino-US strategic competition in the global maritime domain? A gaze at the global maritime security landscape in 2023, shows that there is relative stability in the South China Sea with a reduced risk of intensified military confrontation and escalation. Notwithstanding the relative stability, China’s shift in strategic focus from the South China Sea to the Taiwan Strait underscores significant implications of China’s naval fleet expansion for the existing global maritime security order. Taiwan from Beijing’s perspective, is considered an internal sovereignty issue, rather than an external flashpoint in international relations.

China and other members of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) have expressed the will to maintain peace in the South China Sea. However, differences in maritime interests and security policies among these countries still exist. Diplomatic frictions continue to occur as reflected in the actions and policies of the United States of America, Japan, Australia and other countries in the South China Sea.

Read also: Cargo movement to river, inland ports, maritime security top agenda for maritime agencies

China’s economic rise and concurrent naval expansion position her as both a formidable land and maritime global security actor. But defence and international relations analysts are interested in knowing whether China is using Africa to shape a new global maritime order. China has set its footing in virtually all sub-Saharan Africa seaports – development projects running into billions of US dollars. This is guided by the Belt and Road Initiative’s Maritime Component- the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which aims to serve China’s core maritime interests in its quest to become a global superpower. This initiative includes the creation of a more than $1.2 trillion blue economy. This gives China the added advantage in seeking to reduce disruptive forces as Africa increasingly exports mineral and agricultural commodities to China.

Industry experts believe that Africa may be moving towards industrialization when Chinese investors move their manufacturing plants to Africa. Since 2000, it has been reported that China has built 100 seaports in Africa. A report released recently by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) identified 46 African seaports where China had financial, construction and operational support all of which “squarely aligned with the Chinese broader political, military and commercial objectives.”

Read also: Nigerian Navy, Turkey sign deal to boost frigate’s capacity, maritime security

The USA is also in Africa with its trade policy towards sub-Saharan Africa known as the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) since 2000. It’s on record that through the AGOA, the US Congress seeks to increase US trade and investment with the region, promote sustainable economic growth through trade and encourage the rule of law and market-oriented reforms.

So, are both the United States of America and China using Africa and Taiwan to shape a new global maritime order? Your guess is as good as mine. But one thing to note is that China’s naval expansion and power projection is a logical consequence of its emergence as a global economic powerhouse. This raises fundamental strategic concerns beyond the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Therefore, it’s imperative that the international community diligently observe and intelligently assess China’s actions, promote peaceful dispute resolution and collectively work towards preserving the stability of the global maritime security order. The stakes are high, and the world cannot afford to underestimate the consequences of mismanaged tensions between global powers in vital maritime regions of the world. Thank you.