ramana wrote:So the big question is there a Chinese global strategy and if so what is it?
On February 17, 2017, Xi Jinping enunciated the Global Strategy of China. This was the clearest statement yet of where China wants to be globally after the famous Deng Xiaoping's exhortation to 'bide time' and 'rise peacefully'.
Xi said, and I paraphrase, that China's aims are two. One, China wants a new World Order that would be just and China wants to build it. Two, China wants a new security architecture and China wants to build it.
The choice of the venue was also important. It was China's National Security Convention and as expected, Xi is the Chief of this group too. Apparently, this is a powerful new organization within the CCP.
Internally, it wants to maintain the supremacy of the CCP and thus its governance structure, retain its vice-like grip on far-away regions of Xinjiang & Tibet while continuing to reiterate the One China policy with respect to Taiwan and attempting to annexe the Indo-China Sea (the 'Core Interests') and thirdly make China a high-income economy. Externally, China is trying to fundamentally disturb and alter the existing order, one in which it will and it alone will be be at the pinnacle while professing to stand for 'peace and harmony'. Its idea of of peace is everyone else accepting its benign superiority and paying it tributes while its idea of harmony is Sinicization of the other population. Thus, China is a revisionist power.
How is it going about its task? Xi's ruthless campaign against corruption is as much as to consolidate his position as to strengthen the CCP. His assumption of so many roles is also to ensure that CCP's writ runs everywhere. Mao's Cultural Revolution was a similar attempt but something along those lines cannot be implemented in modern day and age. Hence the new tactic. On the 'Core Interests' we all know what China is doing and so need not be elaborated. The BRI straddles both the internal & external domains and very cleverly too. BRICS was a clever grouping to try to undermine the US and its allies. BRI necessitated AIIB. Thus Bretton Woods institutions are targetted. These are well known.
You mentioned Djibouti. In November 2014, the Namibian Times leaked an official Chinese report that talked of 18 foreign naval bases in such places as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Seychelles, Madagascar and Namibia. Slowly, they are taking shape though many disbelieved the Chinese plan at that time. It is much like the String of Pearls. Though some question this as a figment of imagination by a RAND Corp. analyst, the encirclement is taking shape, whatever name one may give it.
The Chinese PLAN policy makers and the top politicians of the Standing Committee and the Politburo have also internalized the Thayer Mahan's doctrine that naval power is essential to achieve great power status. His monumental work is a compulsory read within PLAN. Of course, history has also taught them that lesson. First, it was the short forays of Zheng He in the 15th century. The Mongol pressure then turned the Chinese inwards-looking and 'sea power' was banned by the Emperors. So, neither before, nor after the brief interlude in the 15th century, was China a naval power. China had to watch mutely as Vasco da Gama of Portugal, followed by the Spanish, Dutch, French and British powers entrenched Western influence in Chinese neighbourhood. Then, the British Navy's operations in the 19th century simply outclassed China in the Opium Wars which also led to the ceding of Hong Kong. Later, the US Navy has been controlling the maritime domain stretching through Pacific, Indian Ocean and into the Gulf and the gap in sea-power between the two is still vast. China had to ignore building up its Navy as it needed to build up the Army first against various land-based adversaries, particularly the USSR, India and Vietnam, until the 80s. China has the longest land-border in the world, over 21000 Kms and it has also the largest number of neighbours, fourteen. When Chairman Mao took over, the borders of China were not well defined. There were problems in Yunnan, Tibet, Xinjiang & Inner Mongolia. It thus remained a Continental Power, a situation from which it needed to come out as its national power began to increase in the two decades after the entente with the US in 1971-72. It has since the 1990s set a frenetic pace to achieve its naval ambition.
We know that the Chinese take a long term view and are patient. The new-found aggression by Xi cannot therefore be a break from the past. We may not know which of his predecessors exactly formulated the strategy to change the 'world order' and its 'security architecture', appropriately dubbed as the 'Two Guiding Principles'; but, we know that Xi is earnestly implementing those. It is for this reason that he would like to be at the helm for another two or three terms by which time he hopes to complete the project. That is why he is assuming all powers (Party general Secretary, President, Commander-in-Chief, Chief of National Security etc. etc.) and is unwilling to identify a heir-apparent. The occupation & militarization of the Indo China Sea is to control the throat of Indo-Pacific. The Chinese have several dilemmas to tackle: the energy-security dilemma, the Malacca dilemma, the Hormuz dilemma, the Indian dilemma, strategic-security dilemma etc. along with this 'throat dilemma' which is very crucial because a rampaging combination of US, India, Japan and Vietnam navies (let's not include the doubtful Australians here) can bottle up the PLAN within the Chinese territorial waters of this throat. It wants to break-out of this claustrophobic setting. The total disregard of the UNCLOS ruling comes from this dilemma. The inability to conclude a Code of Conduct (CoC) with the ASEAN until recently also stemmed from that.
To answer your question, yes, there is a strategy which is revealing in bits and pieces. But, the contours are visible in the forms of Indo-China Sea, completely inimical stand against India, a complex and nuanced relationship with the US in all gamuts of transaction with it, increasing naval power projection and PLAN's plans, BRI and allied actions, increasing assertiveness with which it speaks in international fora, disregard for international treaties, brazenness etc. These are all behaviour of a super-power (the US & USSR behaved similarly too) and China is mimicking them either because it is arrogant or it thinks that's how a superpower should behave to win a pole position or both.