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Issues & Insights Vol. 14 – No. 7 – Revisiting China’s ‘String of Pearls’ Strategy

Proposed in the early 2000s by US researchers in response to Chinese investment in ports along the Indian Ocean littoral, the ‘string of pearls’ theory argued that China may be planning to develop overseas naval bases in South Asia to support extended naval deployments. To date, little evidence supports Chinese naval bases along the Indian Ocean littoral, particularly as that specific arrangement may not be beneficial to China. However, these same locations could serve as useful logistics support for the Chinese Navy, meeting its need to support a blue-water navy with less political cost. ‘Places with Chinese characteristics’ would affect the security calculus of India and the US in the region, as well as set a precedent, potentially for application in Europe.