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China’s New Navy and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief
- Richard Salmons (Adjunct Professor, Temple University, Japan Campus)
One of the most important roles of China’s growing navy may not be to fight the United States Navy, but instead to replace it as a provider of peacetime security in the Asia-Pacific region. Strategists have become well aware of the importance of navies delivering international public goods such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. By letting rivals simultaneously demonstrate material power, establish practical international ties, and build legitimacy, disaster relief has become a way for states to compete for status relative to each other. Indeed, as the Asia-Pacific international hierarchy is increasingly in flux, international disaster relief has become a useful illustration of regional order building in action.
We saw a demonstration of this after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, when both the US and Japan enjoyed soft power benefits from their high-profile aid, while China was embarrassed by its small contribution. Yet in just the past five years, China has constructed a large amphibious fleet, which could play significant peacetime roles in natural disasters and citizen evacuation.
What will be the effect on the regional order if we begin to see Chinese naval task forces arriving to assist in future peacetime crises?
Adjunct Professor, Temple University, Japan Campus
Richard Salmons has worked as a journalist and as a diplomat with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, where he was posted to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, and as a policy adviser in the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. After receiving an Australian government scholarship, he completed a Ph.D. in the Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. His dissertation investigated the post-Cold War international relations of Japan, China and India, and focused on how concerns about national status can drive states towards riskier or more assertive policy options. Since receiving his doctorate, Richard has been teaching political science at Temple University, Japan Campus.