Saturday, May 18, 2024

China’s aircraft carrier Fujian is at sea, and now it’s a very different world

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These malign actors extend their tentacles around the globe. Wagner Group operatives are active in Africa and other places. Iran, as is well known, has its proxies in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen. Chinese money, often lent under the Belt and Road Initiative, has extended its influence worldwide. Last month deals were signed for $15bn of finance, mostly Chinese, which is expected to finally get the giant Simandou iron ore project in Guinea moving. New and massive supplies of iron ore will apparently begin to ship from West Africa before the end of 2025.

China buys over 70 per cent of all seaborne iron ore, and at the moment it is heavily dependent on Australian supplies – supplies which would probably cease, in the event of China invading Taiwan. In just a few years, perhaps, this dependency will be lessened. The government of Guinea will probably not be overly concerned about Taiwan. One of the rules of the rules-based order is that nobody is allowed to interfere with freedom of navigation on the high seas, so China will probably be able to get its ore even having invaded Taiwan.

The ore will be turned into steel, and steel will be turned into ships. The next carrier to follow the Fujian is already building, and this one will probably be fully the equal of a US vessel. Beijing plans to have six carriers by 2035.

More and more in future, no matter where you may be in the world, the nearest carrier strike group may be Chinese, not American. At first this will influence thinking and military realities in places like the Gulf – China has already found itself in naval control there for a spell recently. Then, perhaps, the Torres Strait north of Australia. Soon enough there may be a Chinese carrier group nearby anywhere in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and from time to time the English Channel and the North Sea.

This is blue water carrier power. It can reach almost anywhere.

It’s going to be a very different world.

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