The DEFCON Warning System™

Ongoing GeoIntel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.  DEFCON Level assessment issued for public notification.  Established 1984.

Can China Escape the Malacca Dilemma?

Despite China’s growing assertiveness in the competition for marine resources, Beijing has openly discussed its vulnerabilities in the Strait of Malacca. In November 2003, then Chinese president Hu Jintao coined the term “Malacca Dilemma,” referring to China’s vulnerability to a naval blockade at the strait—the shortest sea route connecting the Middle East and East Asia. Although imposing a naval blockade could incur high economic and diplomatic costs to all involved, intensifying tensions in the Indo-Pacific region increase its possibility of happening. This is of great concern to China’s leaders, as the Malacca Strait is an effective choke point in China’s economic network because of Beijing’s huge dependence on importing energy and its lack of reliable allies in the region. Seeking to remedy this situation, China, by promoting its recently proposed Global Security Initiative (GSI) to expand its security partnership with countries around the region, can potentially minimize the impact caused by the Malacca Dilemma.

The Strait of Malacca is an 805-km stretch of water that falls between the Malay Peninsula on the northeast and the Indonesian island of Sumatra on the southwest. It connects the Andaman Sea in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea in the Pacific Ocean, making it an important marine route for hydrocarbon, container, and bulk cargo shipments between Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. About a quarter of the world’s traded goods and one-third of total global petroleum and other liquids production transported using marine routes pass through the strait annually, making it the second-largest oil trade chokepoint in the world after the Strait of Hormuz. Additionally, 80 percent of China’s exports pass through here, meaning China’s economic destiny is heavily tied to the strait’s stability.

The strait, however, is itself a narrow stretch of water only 65–250 km wide, meaning that it could easily be blocked by nearby nations with sufficient force. To China, this is especially threatening because of the political dynamics in the region.

Read more at National Interest

Ongoing Geointel and Analysis in the theater of nuclear war.

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