Originally Posted by horatio
I have no idea at all. Economic interests always merge with military ones but if we take Chinese history as a benchmark it is unlikely that the country will expand worldwide and e.g. conquer Africa like Europe did or maintain worldwide military bases like the US does. But the country definitely has an interest in gaining at least regional power and East Asia is not a tension-free area.
So my fairly uninformed guess is that their military engagement will be limited to the region for the near future. It is not a peaceful power that merely maintains a military to deter and defend but it is not a country eager to operate on the other side of the world either.
Let's also not forget former Western strategic mistakes like trying to get Georgia, a country next to Russia, into the NATO. Nobody would have come up with such a dumb idea during the Cold War. Same applies for East Asia, if we think that we can maintain a military presence on the doorstep of a new superpower we are obviously braindead.
That's pretty much what I've been thinking. It seems to me that while China has been vocal about territorial ambitions over the years. However, when you look at it, their interests are very much limited to that region albeit the west Pacific is a very large region an where conflict is likely to arise is from the fact that there are a lot of recognized sovereign nations in that region. China has been pretty vocal about not meddling in the internal affairs of other nations...Overtly anyway, such as direct military interventions. If China holds true to that then any military operations should be confined to that area. To those of us outside of Asia, we might look at what China did with Tibet as an overt military action of a sovereign nation, but for China that was an internal affair with a region it regarded as belonging to China. It may seem like a distinction of convenience to outsiders and I'm not at all disagreeing with that interpretation, but I think it does show a certain degree of consistency in how China approaches its immediate sphere of influence and what we might be able to expect.
Your very last statement is something I've been espousing and naturally falls mostly on deaf ears. A lot of people here in the US pretty much turn their noses up at the news of China's first carrier citing that the US has been using carriers since the 1930s and that we boast roughly a dozen carriers. Nevermind the fact that the US did not invent the carrier and much of its innovations. That was primarily pioneered by the Royal Navy. On top of that, the US having commitments world wide and the fact that not all carriers are ever deployed at once due to rotations for maintenance, upgrades, training, etc that pretty much means we can field maybe 2 carriers in a given theater. What the "We're Number One!" crowd completely ignores the fact that China doesn't have to match us carrier for carrier to meet their immediate strategic goals. Most Americans look at the Chinese naval development with contempt while I look at it with guarded admiration. In fact I'm pretty sure that Russia and the rest of Europe looked at Japan's emerging navy with contempt until the Strait of Tsushima.