China’s “Blue Soil”

Recent Chinese documents and statements on maritime issues reflects this growing interest and focus on naval power. It should also raise concerns .

In the 2010 China’s Ocean Development Report from the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), the Chinese made their first official statement that they were building and developing a carrier fleet. That’s the part that got most of the attention.  But perhaps more relevant was the reference in that report to the littoral waters as China’s “blue soil,” with the implications that territorial claims to the waters are as fundamental as the claims to land territory.

This fits with Hu Jintao’s important directives to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regarding its new missions, wherein preserving China’s interests in key domains, including maritime, are laid out. Subsequent Chinese documents and analyses provided further explanation of what that meant.

This also fits with Chinese doctrinal revisions, where joint operations involving maritime forces rose in prominence. Hu Jintao’s Military Thoughts on National Defense and Army-Building, meanwhile, were added to the pantheon of Chinese military thinking, elevating the new missions (and expanding their meaning) to the level of long-term planning guidance.


Dean Cheng is a War on the Rocks contributor. He is the Heritage Foundation’s research fellow on Chinese political and security affairs.