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Today, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is investing in marine scientific research on a massive scale. This investment supports an oceanographic research agenda that is increasingly global in scope. One key indicator of this trend is the expanding operations of China’s oceanographic research fleet. On any given day, 5-10 Chinese “scientific research vessels” (科学考查船) may be found operating beyond Chinese jurisdictional waters, in strategically-important areas of the Indo-Pacific. Overshadowed by the dramatic growth in China’s naval footprint, their presence largely goes unnoticed. Yet the activities of these ships and the scientists and engineers they embark have major implications for U.S. national security.
This report explores some of these implications. It seeks to answer basic questions about the out-of-area—or “distant-ocean” (远洋)—operations of China’s oceanographic research fleet. Who is organizing and conducting these operations? Where are they taking place? What do they entail? What are the national drivers animating investment in these activities?
China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College
Newport, Rhode Island
China, China Maritime Studies Institute, CMSI, People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia
Martinson, Ryan D. and Dutton, Peter A., "China Maritime Report No. 3: China’s Distant-Ocean Survey Activities: Implications for U.S. National Security" (2018). CMSI China Maritime Reports. 3.