With the biggest maritime force on the planet, China is in a strong position to control the world’s oceans.
Control comes in many forms. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is busily deploying fishing fleets to plunder the world’s oceans. The CCP is also rewriting the maritime rules of engagement. In many ways, the CCP has appointed itself ruler of two of the world’s most important oceans, the Pacific and the Indian, dictating who gets to enter—and more importantly, who doesn’t. All of this is occurring above the surface.
But what about below? Again, China is leading the way, actively mining the oceans’ floors for valuable minerals. With such extensive mining operations, the consequences of an unchallenged China are, for lack of a better word, unimaginable.
Last year, the author Stephen Chen asked if the world’s deep seas could ever become China’s next mining frontier. Twelve months later, the answer is a resounding yes.
Over the past decade, China has aggressively expanded its engagements in the Indian Ocean. The CCP has also expanded its presence in the Pacific. This is not by chance. This is part of China’s “two-ocean” strategy; the seeds of this operation were planted two decades ago. Although the best-laid plans often go awry, the CCP’s plan to dominate both oceans is going rather well. The “two-ocean” strategy was designed for one reason only: to give the CCP greater control of both bodies of water.
To put this Indo-Pacific strategy in perspective, it helps to appreciate just how important the two oceans are. The Pacific is the world’s largest and deepest ocean, covering roughly one-third of the earth’s surface. Meanwhile, the waters of the Indian Ocean reach 28 countries; these countries account for more than a third of the world’s population. The Indian Ocean, according to Sri Lankan-based researchers, “holds 16.8% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 27.9% of proven natural gas reserves.” The Pacific Ocean also has significant oil and gas potential.
In his article, Chen discussed the fact that a number of eminent Chinese researchers had identified a whole host of “strategically important deep sea mineral deposits.” Many of these mineral deposits are located in the Pacific and Indian oceans. In fact, both oceans are home to many of the same minerals we find on land, a fact that is not lost on Beijing.
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I contacted Baban Ingole, an ocean expert of considerable repute, for comment on the matter.
He told me that both oceans have “rich deposits of important minerals such as cobalt, nickel, and copper,” the “main constituents” of electric vehicle batteries. By 2030, the world will be home to at least 145 million electric vehicles. The Chinese—again, fully aware of this fact—intend to be the world leader in both the production and distribution of such vehicles.
Bramley J. Murton, head of marine geosciences with the National Oceanography Center, Southampton, UK, echoed Ingole’s point, stating that countries are interested in ocean mining in order “to acquire security of supply for sources of elements that are currently critical to new technologies of renewable energy generation, storage and electrification of transport.”
Cobalt, nickel, and tellurium are the main ones, he said. As the demand for green technologies increases exponentially, Murton believes that “terrestrial supply will struggle to keep up with demand,” hence China’s desire to mine the oceans.
Murton, a geologist by training, told me that deep-sea mining (DSM) is far “less invasive to human societies than terrestrial mining—there is no infrastructure that needs putting in (roads, production plant, tailings ponds, etc.), hence no communities that need to be affected or displaced.”
What sort of negatives are associated with deep-sea mining?
“Mining the deep-sea floor for battery metals may cause irreversible and long-lasting negative impacts on the deep-sea ecology and biodiversity,” Ingole told me.
As I have noted elsewhere, the CCP already excels in destroying biodiversity. Besides being an environmental issue, deep-sea mining is also a geopolitical one.
“DSM requires compliance by the international community,” said Murton. “Under the United Nations’ law of the sea,” the areas “beyond national jurisdiction” are “open to sustainable exploitation,” he noted. To ensure safety and fairness, this “requires all states to abide by the treaty.”
Not surprisingly, Beijing refuses to follow the rules. The CCP constantly and consciously bends and misapplies the rules.
“Also, for some states,” added Murton, “control of the supply of critical metals is a major factor in their strategic calculations—if they lose control over the supply, they lose geopolitical influence.”
The bad news doesn’t end there. As Indian researchers have noted, the Indo-Pacific, very much a multipolar region, accounts for more than 60 percent of global GDP and over half the world’s population.
Moreover, many of “the world’s most important choke points for global trade are located in this region, including the Straits of Malacca, which are crucial for global economic growth,” noted the researchers.
While the world slept, the CCP stole two of the world’s most important oceans.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.