Skip to content

Content Header

“The Malacca Dilemma”- Countering China’s “String of Pearls” with Land-Based Airpower

“The Malacca Dilemma”- Countering China’s “String of Pearls” with Land-Based Airpower published on

Authored by Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Lawrence Spinetta

China is strengthening diplomatic ties and building naval bases along the sea lanes from the Middle East. This “String of Pearls” strategy is designed to protect its energy security, negate US influence in the region, and project power overseas. China is rapidly building a blue-water navy, developing advanced missile technology, and stockpiling undersea mines to counter US Navy capabilities, especially in the event of a conflict over Taiwan. To counter China’s growing naval power, the United States can exploit a critical vulnerability-China’s dependence on sea lines of communication. Eighty percent of China’s oil imports pass through the Strait of Malacca; the Chinese leadership calls this strategic weakness the “Malacca Dilemma.” In conjunction with naval forces, land-based airpower offers a promising way to control key maritime chokepoints and trade routes. Land-based airpower proved a decisive maritime force in the war against Japanese shipping during World War II. China, like Japan at the start of WWII, is a rising Asiatic power with similar resource aspirations. Historical evidence suggests land-based airpower can control the littorals and cut China’s “String of Pearls.” Unfortunately, Air Force maritime capabilities have atrophied. Counter sea will remain an underdeveloped Air Force mission until it is elevated from a collateral mission. In order for the US armed forces to develop a joint maritime force, the Air Force needs to embrace, fund, and train for maritime operations. Additionally, the United States should strengthen strategic partnerships within the region and create a web of austere, forward operating bases.

Publication Date:
Oct 30 2014
1503027066 / 9781503027060
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
8.5″ x 11″
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / Asia / China


Primary Sidebar