China's expanding international economic interests are likely to generate increasing demands for its navy, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), to operate out of area to protect Chinese citizens, investments, and sea lines of communication. The frequency, intensity, type, and location of such operations will determine the associated logistics support requirements, with distance from China, size and duration, and combat intensity being especially important drivers.
How will the PLAN employ overseas bases and facilities to support these expanding operational requirements? The assessment in this book is based on Chinese writings, comments by Chinese military officers and analysts, observations of PLAN operational patterns, analysis of the overseas military logistics models other countries have employed, and interviews with military logisticians. China's rapidly expanding international interests are likely to produce a parallel expansion of PLAN operations, which would make the current PLAN tactic, exclusive reliance on commercial port access, untenable due to cost and capacity factors. This would certainly be true if China contemplated engaging in higher intensity combat operations.
This book considers six logistics models that might support expanded PLAN overseas operations: the Pit Stop Model, Lean Colonial Model, Dual Use Logistics Facility, String of Pearls Model, Warehouse Model, and Model USA. Each model is analyzed in terms of its ability to support likely future naval missions to advance China's expanding overseas economic, political, and security interests and in light of longstanding Chinese foreign policy principles.
This analysis concludes that the Dual Use Logistics Facility and String of Pearls models most closely align with China's foreign policy principles and expanding global interests. To assess which alternative China is likely to pursue, the book reviews current PLAN operational patterns in its Gulf of Aden counterpiracy operations to assess whether the PLAN is currently pursuing one model over the other and to provide clues about Chinese motives and potential future trajectories. To ensure that this study does not suffer from faulty assumptions, it also explicitly examines the strategic logic that Western analysts associate with the String of Pearls Model in light of the naval forces and logistics infrastructure that would be necessary to support PLAN major combat operations in the Indian Ocean. Both the contrasting inductive and deductive analytic approaches support the conclusion that China appears to be planning for a relatively modest set of missions to support its overseas interests, not building a covert logistics infrastructure to fight the United States or India in the Indian Ocean.