China’s 45th Naval Fleet is heading to the Gulf of Aden, strengthening China’s strategic position in the Middle East. With the rise of the Chinese Navy and the possibility of a reduction in the American naval presence, this Chinese advance could redraw the geopolitical map of the region
China’s 45th Naval Fleet sets sail for escort mission in Gulf of Aden
On September 12, in Qingdao, a coastal city in east China’s Shandong Province, the 45th fleet of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy left the military port to take over from the 44th Naval Fleet in an escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters.
Mainly composed of troops and naval equipment from the PLA’s Northern Theater Command, the 45th Fleet includes the guided missile destroyer Urumqi, the missile frigate Linyi, the multi-role replenishment ship Dongpinghu, dozens of special forces personnel and two helicopters. Prior to deployment, specific training was conducted, covering the rescue of hijacked commercial vessels, countering terrorists and pirates, and practical use of weapons.
A growing Chinese presence in the Middle East
Since sending its first naval escort task force to the Gulf of Aden in 2008, China has gradually increased its naval presence in the Middle East. If the initial objective of this presence – the fight against piracy – has faded, Beijing continues to strengthen its interests in the region. This presence should be further strengthened, in parallel with the deepening of local relations.
Beijing’s first modern naval deployment took place in 2008 under President Hu Jintao. Since then, despite a notable decrease in pirate attacks, China has continued to send fleets to combat this phenomenon. These missions also allowed China to strengthen its relations with countries in the region, while showing its ability to deploy forces far from its shores.
China advances, the United States hesitates
China’s naval presence in the Middle East shows no signs of receding. With growing economic interests in the region, and an apparent desire to establish permanent military bases in strategic countries, China is ready to strengthen its naval presence. This expansion could also provide Beijing with a strategic advantage in its strained relations with other major powers, such as India.
Faced with Chinese naval expansion, the United States will have to determine its own strategy in the region. While the US naval presence may be diminishing, Beijing appears determined to fill the void. Peaceful coexistence between the two maritime powers will be crucial to maintaining regional stability. Skillful diplomacy and defensive engagement will be required to navigate this new and evolving balance of power.
keywords: Chinese 45th Naval Fleet, Gulf of Aden, Qingdao, People’s Liberation Army Navy, guided missile destroyer Urumqi, missile frigate Linyi, counter-piracy, naval presence in the Middle East, Chinese economic interests , permanent military bases, American naval strategy