Naval War College researchers travel to China, research Chinese marine policy

Photo of Conor Kennedy and Ryan Martinson

NEWPORT, R.I. – Two of U.S. Naval War College’s (NWC) China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) members, Conor Kennedy and Ryan Martinson, traveled to the People’s Republic of China, Dec. 13-20, 2017.

The purpose of their trip was to advance their research on the intersection between Chinese marine policy and the country’s geostrategic ambitions, especially in the South China Sea.

During their visit, they went to Zhanjiang, Guangdong; Hainan province; and Beijing.

NWC’s CMSI combines significant linguistic and technological resources with a close proximity to many of the United States’ leading academic institutions, creating relationships with unrivaled intellectual synergies.

While in Zhanjiang, they attend the 2017 Marine Economy Expo, a four-day event covering recent developments in China’s marine economy, marine equipment industries, and marine policy. As part of the Expo, they also visited the Xiahai coast guard base and boarded Chinese patrol ships involved in defending China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Next, Kennedy and Martinson traveled by train and ferry to Hainan Island where they visited the fishing ports of Haikou, Tanmen, Sanya and Yazhou. These ports are important to both China’s fishing fleets and to its increasingly active coast guard and maritime militia fleets.

In Haikou, they visited the National Institute of South China Studies (NISCS), a Chinese “think-tank” that researches maritime affairs and advises Chinese policymakers on issues related to the South China Sea. While in Haikou, they participated in a round table with NISCS experts who shared their views on China’s oceanographic research activities, Chinese maritime strategy under Xi Jinping, and China coast guard reform.

Their next stop was at Tanmen village, which is home to the Chinese fishing population most active in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Here, Kennedy and Martinson spoke with Tanmen residents about the local fishing industry and visited the Tanmen Fishermen’s Association, the organization that supports local efforts to uphold Chinese sovereignty claims to Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.

In Sanya, they visited the Hainan Tropical Ocean University, an institute with close ties to Hainan’s maritime agencies and home to an impressive new museum on Chinese marine policy. While in Sanya, they took a day trip to Yazhou, a massive fishing harbor with vessels regularly sailing to contested parts of the South China Sea.

Yazhou is also home to the maritime militia unit that harassed the Military Sealift Command Impeccable-class ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23) in March 2009. Their guide, a former fishermen, shared many insights on the fishing industry in Hainan.

For the last leg of their trip, Kennedy and Martinson traveled to Beijing. Here they visited the U.S. Embassy and purchased texts and other scholarly materials useful to their research.

In seeking to more fully understand the complexities of China’s emerging role in Asia-Pacific, CMSI continues to seek expanded collaborative relationships with government research centers, civilian academic institutions and other relevant organizations. These partnerships facilitate research on China’s development as a maritime power.

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From the China Maritime Studies Institute