China and the Strait of Malacca

Authored by: Justin V. Hastings

Security and Conflict in East Asia

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781857437171
eBook ISBN: 9781315850344
Adobe ISBN:


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What role does the Strait of Malacca play in China’s strategic thinking? In this chapter I look at the Malacca Strait as both a necessary part of China’s dreams of economic development and emergence of a regional and global power, and an issue relevant to a number of problems that China faces in its development. I argue that the Malacca Strait is of great strategic importance to China for a number of reasons. The Strait’s geopolitical centrality as a shipping lane makes China dependent on goods that pass through the Strait, and it thus has an incentive to try to ensure that its goods continue to pass through unimpeded. Partly because of this imperative, China’s relations with the littoral states of the Malacca Strait are important, but not always easy, and it faces the problem of how to deal with them when the USA is a viable regional competitor, leading to a ‘Malacca dilemma’ (Chen 2010). The Malacca Strait also serves as the point connecting both the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with a number of other countries, and the Indian Ocean, where China is attempting to establish a greater naval presence.

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