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External changes

Internal changes in the competent international organizations may be necessary but they are not, and cannot be, sufficient to ensure the effective discharge of their functions under the Convention of the Law of the Sea. For this, certain changes will be necessary outside the organizations. This is because, although these organizations (or at least some of them) are endowed with a measure of legal independence and the means and resources for independent operation, the fact still remains that measures which they develop require State approval (or at least acquiescence) before they become operative. What is more, the rules, standards, and procedures which emanate from these organizations can only be implemented and enforced by appropriate State action. In addition, many of the initiatives which emanate from these organizations require the acceptance, support, and involvement of non-State bodies and entities industry, non-governmental organizations - although internal developments within respective organizations can promote, or alternatively hamper, their emergence or growth. Of the many external changes that are essential for the successful discharge of the functions of internal organizations, cooperation from other organizations deserve special mention.

In addition to the participation and commitment of States in the competent organizations, the organization's effectiveness will be greatly enhanced by the willingness of other organizations, and their Member States, to enter into constructive cooperative relationship, as foreseen and required by the Convention on the Law of the Sea. As stated earlier, the Convention recognized, and sets great store by cooperation among States, between States and the competent international organizations and among the competent organizations themselves. Such cooperation is necessary, firstly, to enable organizations and their Member States to benefit from the special knowledge, experience, expertise of other bodies and, secondly, in order to increase the rational use of scarce resources, avoid duplication of effort and wasteful jurisdictional conflicts. In many cases, organizations spend valuable time and resources challenging the competence of other organizations to undertake particular projects and programmes or, sometimes, even in attempting to deal with the same problems simultaneously. And in most cases these disputes arise or are maintained because delegations (and ministries or departments in governments) adopt different positions in different organizations. The competent international organizations will not be able to give of their best unless there is the necessary change in governments which will enable the organizations to organize their work in such a way that problems and issues are dealt with in the most suitable of several possible fore, but with the willing and constructive support and cooperation from all other organizations which may have something of merit to contribute to the final outcome. Such a change requires that most governments have a measure of interministerial and interdepartmental coordination which ensures that the policy of the government on any matters which come up in the organizations will be well considered; that it is established with the full awareness of all possible implications; that it is known to, and accepted by, all ministries and agencies concerned, and finally that it is the policy which will be advocated by all representatives of the state in all organizations and in all fora.

Methods of promoting and encouraging the needed changes: Internal and external

To promote and encourage the various internal and external changes, the following methods and approaches may be considered:

a. Development and encouragement in international organizations of institutional arrangements and procedures which stress the essential interrelationship between the various programmes and activities within ocean space.

b. Increased assistance and advice to governments, particularly governments of developing countries, in organizing institutional and administrative structures which facilitate and require effective coordination of national policy-making and policy implementation on maritime matters.

c. Greater support for programmes of human resource development (training, etc.) which stress the vital importance of an integrated and coordinated approach to the management of the seas and the oceans.


1. The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author; they may not be attributed in any way to any organization or institution with which he is now, or has in the past, been associated.

Information and communication on the oceans

Jacques G. Richardson


Functional segments related to ocean governance
Vehicles of communication
An imperative about communication
Ideas for better communication

In comparison with existing and forthcoming laws on the seas and oceans, international treaties such as those on the Antarctic and Nuclear Non-Proliferation have perhaps proven more compelling on the public mind. Such comparisons refer, however, to well-defined achievement, that is to say, popular and decision-making attention is more interested in the ocean's fauna (but not its flora, their commercial value notwithstanding); or the possibilities it offers for travel and adventure, sports and other leisure, as well as defence and security. The menace of a rise in sealevel as a result of global warming tends to be presented by the media as a scenario of cataclysm, a distortion of the probable reality of the future. (Ausubel 1991)

Media material dealing with the ocean made available for consumption primarily by scientists and technologists is of high quality, authoritative, plentiful and ever growing as we learn more about the sea, its processes and interactions with terrestrial masses, the atmosphere, and human activity. However, technical transfer of specialized knowledge among oceanologists is not likely to affect public reactions, whereas decision-makers may be more significantly influenced by (challengingly presented) scientific and technical papers or audiovisual messages.

Information and communication targets

Taking the example of the International Ocean Institute (IOI), its vocation is to promote education, training, and research to enhance the peaceful uses of ocean space and its resources, their management and regulation, as well as the protection and conservation of marine environment.

By extension, IOI seeks to make better known the institutional requirements during the next century for sustainable development of marine space and, in terms of governance, to apply them to the sea and coastline. To ocean specialists, to those concerned with governance, and to professional communicators, it follows that audiences showing interest in maritime matters are of three types:

A. the public (to whom the ocean belongs, now and in the future);

B. policy formulators and decision-makers (who seek to regulate and prolong use of the sea); and

C. specialists professionally involved with the sea and its exploitation (those who use it directly or try to understand it better), here called oceanologists.

These three target groups are the audiences that concern us in the present chapter. The challenge of approaching these groups intelligently, and with effective results, via various non-scholastic means can be represented by the following typology.

Increasing impact and raising awareness

In increasing impact, we may benefit from the experience of science journalists in treating science and technology policy, where experience has shown that such policy (together with chemistry, incidentally) is the most unrewarding aspect of science and technology to popularize - or even to semi-popularize, as in the case of the specialists, audience (C). Many readers, listeners or spectators (the would be learners) are not interested in the aspects of research concerned with science policy - they are, in a word, apathetic to the subject, and there is ultimately very little message conveyed.

While preparing this chapter, I spent a day at the new Nausica‚ Oceanographic Museum and the nearby Ifremer Research Centre at Boulogne-sur-Mer (France). Boulogne has been an active port since before the Roman occupation of Gaul and Britain; as a community, it literally lives by the sea, and is not very far from the French terminus of the new Channel Tunnel.

Table 1

  Communication level Message complexity
Public Usually unidisciplinary Simple to not too complex
Policy formulators and decision makers Multidisciplinary Relatively complex, with elements of economic scale
Oceanologists Transdisciplinary Complex, detailed, perhaps difficult, with elements of intergovernmental science and technology policy.

Discussions with the Ifremer Centre's 50 scientists and technical personnel were replete with references to collaborative projects within the 8 countries bordering the Channel and the North Sea, but at no time was intimation made by these professionals of a Law of the Sea and its implications. Nor was governance a concern of the ingenious and most attractive exhibits at Nausica‚. This situation repeats itself (one must add) throughout the world's oceanic research centres and exhibits related to the sea, fisheries and affiliated topics.

Governance appears to fit the category of science policy, mentioned above. The subject of governance needs treatment, then, with all the resources and astuteness of which marine specialists and communicators are capable. Only in this way will there be conveyed meaningfully and usably to the public and the decision-makers, although not to oceanologists, the significance of pending international legislation concerning the world ocean. ("Usably" includes increasingly purposes of sports, entertainment, and other forms of leisure.)

The public and decision-makers, audiences (A) and (B), the media available during the foreseeable future with the highest impact are - it is agreed among professional communicators - audio-visual: television clips and longer productions; cinema films; exhibit- and museum-type slide montages with sound. This appraisal has almost worldwide application. (Cornell 1991)

The next highest impact comes from good newspaper and magazine articles. These, together with books, were the first mass popularizers of science and technology during the nineteenth century to reach significant audiences, and remained so well into the present century. This evaluation applies chiefly to industrialized societies having a good rate of literacy.

The effect of radio programmes is probably highest in the oral-aural cultures, such as those of Africa, but now of comparatively little consequence elsewhere. Exceptions to this "little consequence" are found in countries maintaining broadcast channels of wide and dense information content: BBC's Radio 4 in the United Kingdom, France Culture, Public Service Radio in the United States, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio Canada, some of the NHK broadcasts in Japan, the Soviet and Chinese radio networks, and similar services in other nations. All of these media combine to serve the public and decision-makers, audiences (A) and (B) not so much as channels for better public understanding of the sea and its use but as venues for informal education about the world ocean and its protection. (Tressel 1990)

In those cultures where books are available and read, it is inevitably the highly popularized or profusely illustrated volumes or collections that have impact. For oceanologists, audience (C), the highest effect lies, as one would expect, in scholarly and technical journals. When this audience is transdisciplinary, review-type journals and audio-visual productions seem to have the most to offer.

When time permits, books convey to this specialized "market" the most complete data and interpretation available. Books will sometimes hold the attention of decision-makers, although this category of audience is inevitably short of the time necessary for a thorough consumption of book contents. The type of venture begun in August 1991 by UNESCO, Environment Brief - a serial bulletin designed and edited specifically for decision-making audiences - can help supplant the unread book.

Ocean museums and outdoor parks are in a special category, because the high-impact centres of this type are found almost exclusively in the industrialized countries, and then usually only along the littoral. Among these, it is the most recent, interactive displays that communicate best. Developing countries usually do not have the financial resources needed to support such museums, so their populations inevitably do without.

Functional segments related to ocean governance

The operating spectrum concerning data and its interpretation which needs to be communicated at the global level includes:

General themes

- The communality of the oceans (hence the prospective Law of the Sea Treaty).

- Complexity of the resource: ocean-land, ocean-atmosphere, land-atmosphere effects; mankind's interaction.


- Awareness of the history of mankind's adaptation to the total oceanic environment.

- The coveted seashore (and island ecology).

- The threat to terrestrial expanses.

- The shielding forest.

- Freshwater constraints

- Shifting industry - pollution and toxicity

- Urban growth and decay - pollution and toxicity

- Offshore technologies - pollution and toxicity

- The agriculture/food outlook (fishery, aquaculture)


- Transport.

- Security and defence.

- Outlook for energy (renewable included).

- Leisure tourism.

- Cultural impacts.


- Plans, finance, and legislation.

- Implementation and regulation.

- Evaluation and control.

- Future of humanity-ocean relationship.

The functional spectrum suggested above sometimes offers little occasion for the reporting of events. But, in almost all the categories of the spectrum, it is process that dominates. By "process" is meant consideration of the dissemination of knowledge or information over time. Catching and maintaining the interest of non-professional audiences becomes, therefore, the main challenge for communicators.

Process also dominates another category of subjects related to the sea. These might be termed the mechanical aspects related to ocean exploitation; they include regulatory and juridical considerations.

Vehicles of communication

Good examples of continuing informational sources conveying information (in most of the categories specified) to the various target groups are absorbed, analysed, assessed, and interpreted by them in direct relation to the segments of human activity. These sources may be classified as follows:

1. Scholarly and technical journals (primary): this is universally, printed material.

2. Interdisciplinary media for professionals: these can be printed, or audio-visual materials.

3. Interdisciplinary media for decision makers: printed or audio visual materials;

4. Interdisciplinary media for the public: these are, increasingly, of audio-visual nature.

5. Unidisciplinary or single-sector media relating to the specific topics listed above: these can be either printed or audio-visual, or a combination of both.

Unidisciplinary or single-sector media abound, in many languages, the world over. The major petroleum spills occurring along coastlines during the 15-year period between 1977 and 1991 have been the source of much intensive treatment of the pollution of beaches, estuaries and ports, and local fauna and flora. The sea has figured prominently in legend and myth and, after the advent of literacy, through fictional writing.

In the second half of the twentieth century, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Rachel Carson have made enormous contributions to the public's understanding of sea as a force of nature and as the source of both exotic biota and the 100 million tonnes or so of edibles harvested from the ocean annually.

Interdisciplinary materials for decision makers are most often commissioned directly by governmental and non-governmental bodies such as the International Ocean Institute. These are, for the most part, painstakingly detailed in their research and compilation, and statistically sound when databases are available and well stocked. Consumers of such material - those who formulate policy, adopt it, then translate policy into decisions and operational programmes need to be aware of a pitfall in this category. In a few cases, militancy on the part of one interest group or another can "make the reports say" what such advocates desire that they convey. The Roman precaution of "buyer beware" is the obvious prudence to be exercised by users of such material. Otherwise, the materials available are highly reliable.

An imperative about communication

The University of Hawaii's Roger Fujioka, a hydrologist with profound concern for the total environment, suggests a dozen insights that should serve usefully all those concerned with rationalizing mankind's approach to the use - and minimal abuse - of a global common, such as fresh water or the oceans.

Dr. Fujioka has already graciously absolved me of transferring his concern from the hydrological environment to that of the sea and coasts. The following are his `'disciplining dozen":

Opinion and mankind's exploitation of the oceans

Rule 1. Recognize the fact that opinion is powerful.

Rule 2. Recognize the difficulty in arguing against opinion from a technical point of view, for opinion is not based solely on the technical merits of practices under consideration.

Rule 3. Recognize that opinion is strongly formed by public media, especially newspapers and television. Look at newspaper headlines, for example, then imagine the impression they make on citizens. Many readers do not take the time to read further: they form opinions from the headlines.

Rule 4. Recognize that there are never enough data to respond to everyone's concerns in selecting the best technological approach to the solution of problems.

Rule 5. Recognize that any technical approach chosen will result in the creation of (new) potential problems.

Rule 6. Recognize that some people distrust or reject new technology, or the recommendations made by government, industry, or university scientists.

Rule 7. Recognize that a few persistent citizens can impede or delay projects. Recognize further that such people are often perceived as champions of just causes - such as protecting the environment or human lives, issues having essentially sentimental appeal.

Rule 8. Recognize that the public must be educated on technical issues before these reach the state of open hearings. The public is willing to listen and absorb technical merits into the decision-making process, but not when the public seeks to "make a point" during the final stages of public hearings.

Rule 9. Recognize, however, that scientists and engineers are not trained (nor have they the time) to educate the public.

Rule 10. Recognize the need for professional specialists in information transfer - those trained in science or technology as well as in communication with government regulators, the media, and the public.

Rule 11. Recognize that there is a need for responsible information represents no vested interests other than providing a forum for the discussion of environmental resources.

Rule 12. Use the 11 rules above to implement action. (Adapted, with permission, from International Hydrological Bulletin, January-March 1991, p. 2)

Ideas for better communication

The following are given as initiatives to help facilitate the tasks of improving information and communication regarding the sea and its coastal environments, and the discharge of moral and technical obligations to assure the sustainable development of these resources for generations to come:

1. Invite the mass and specialized media to observe or participate in most ocean-related events such as Pacem in Maribus conferences.

2. Encourage influential, mass-circulation magazines and periodicals specifically oriented towards the oceans or the environment in general to preview a maritime world governed by UNCLOS.

3. Encourage two or three "world class" communicators to prepare personalized picture essays on an oceanic world affected by UNCLOS provisions.

4. Promote a television series along the same lines. There are numerous qualified scientific or environmental journalists who might be persuaded to develop such a broadcast. Financing could come from environmentally dependent industrial enterprises: petroleum, pulp-and-paper, and chemical firms.

5. Encourage a major publishing house to undertake production of an "Atlas of a Treaty-regulated World Ocean," capable of being converted into other major languages.


Ausubel, Jesse H. "A Second Look at the Impacts of Climate Change." American Scientist, 79 May-June (1991), pp. 210-221.

Cornell, James. As editor, Cornell treats the subject especially well in Ground-Level Views of Global Problems: International Environmental Reporting. Cambridge, Mass.: International Science Writers Association, 1991.

Tressel, George. "Science on the Air: NSF's Role." Physics Today, 43 November, (1990), p. 24.

Collective security and the changing role of navies

Joseph R. Morgan

Navies of the developing world
The law of the sea and changing naval missions
Medium power and superpower navies
Changing naval functions
An optimistic future


Navies have been in the world since antiquity, serving the maritime security needs of coastal States, both large and small. However, the role of naval forces in maintaining national security and global stability at sea has changed periodically, depending on advances in technology and changing political geography. During an era of intense rivalry among countries for control of colonies and trade routes, a primary role of naval forces was to insure free and unimpeded use of the seas for commercial purposes. When rival states and pirates regularly interfered with peaceful shipping, navies were needed to provide protection to merchant ships or to deter attacks upon them by the threat of overbearing force. According to Mahan (1890), "The necessity of a navy, in the restricted sense of the word, springs, therefore, from the existence of a peaceful shipping, and disappears, with it, except in the case of a nation which has aggressive tendencies, and keeps a navy merely as a branch of the military establishment." Mahan, however, based his analysis of the role of navies on events during the period 1660-1783, the heart of the sailing ship era and a time when colonialism and mercantilism were considered not only acceptable but highly desirable paradigms for maintaining a stable world order. (Allen 1988) For the most part, colonies no longer exist, and the functions of navies, therefore, have changed, adapting to new conditions, among which the proliferation of independent States is overwhelmingly the most important.

Protecting the sea lanes of commerce (SLOCs) is still widely stated as a principal mission of naval forces, but it is logical to argue that many countries with large merchant marines, Norway for example, get along quite well with small navies, and some countries such as the United States have large, powerful navies but small merchant fleets. (Martin 1967) Therefore, there must be other, more important, missions for naval forces. Indeed, there are. During modern wars, most of which are not fought over SLOCs or the maintenance of colonies, an important function of a navy is to project power from the sea against the land territory of an enemy. This can be done by shore bombardment using guns or missiles, bomber planes launched from aircraft-carriers, and by amphibious landings, in which specially designed ships carry troops that are put ashore on an adversary's coast. General support of land forces is another role for wartime navies. Air power and shore bombardment are frequently used in direct support of troops and armoured units.

Virtually all countries list defence of their coasts against attack by an aggressor state as a principal reason to maintain a navy. The coastal defence mission is decreasing in importance, however, as more advanced technology has resulted in the ability to project power from sea to land over much greater distances than ever before, as through the use of long-range missiles.

Perhaps more important in the changing world order, navies also have a useful role in peacetime. The capability of navies to project great power frequently acts as a deterrent to the aggressive tendencies of potential enemies. The threat of an exchange of nuclear missiles served to deter both the United States and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from permitting their Cold War rivalry to escalate into actual combat. Navies frequently practice "gunboat diplomacy," a show of force by surface ships, to provide a not so subtle warning to countries that the initiation of hostilities by them is likely to result in the use of force by a more militarily powerful country. Finally, there are some basically non-military functions of navies, such as scientific research at sea, hydrographic surveys, maintenance of navigational aids, assistance to countries in the event of disasters, and various humanitarian activities such as search and rescue.

Navies of the developing world

Virtually all coastal States, and some landlocked countries as well, maintain navies. The most recent edition of Jane's Fighting Ships gives statistical data for 164 navies, most of which are fleets of developing or third world countries. (Sharpe 1991) Morris (1987) analysed the characteristics of those navies he classified as "Third World" and arrived at the six ranks described below. These can be considered as a hierarchy of naval missions and the associated ship characteristics needed to carry out the assigned functions.

Rank 1 (token) navies

These have a formal organizational structure, assigned officer and enlisted personnel of appropriate ranks, and a small number of coastal vessels with little or no combat capability. A few of these navies have one or two fast attack craft (FAC), but this alone does not justify reclassifying them into rank 2. Token navies are maintained for prestige purposes only, but it is difficult to see how a small, ineffective navy can lend much eminence to the country. It might be reasonable simply to ignore the presence of the large number of rank 1 navies, since their potential to either maintain or upset security at sea is negligible; however, there is a distinct tendency for countries to upgrade their token navies into rank 2 fleets.

Rank 2 (constabulary) navies

These navies are equipped with coastal patrol craft (PC) and fast attack craft (FAC) in varying numbers and configurations. The FACs can perform various police or constabulary functions, and the PCs are able to provide some degree of surveillance capability. Although the small size of the vessels and their generally light armament make them unsuitable for offshore combat, in limited sea areas, such as narrow straits through which more powerful warships and many merchant vessels must pass, FACs can be potent weapons platforms. (Alexander and Morgan 1988, p. 347) Modern technology, particularly guided missiles, has given some quite small ships a comparatively large combat capability. An example of a rank 2 navy with impressive combat potential is Singapore, the strategic location of which on the Malacca-Singapore Straits sea lane accounts for much of its successful maritime economy and seapower. The addition of FACs to the PCs that characterize rank 1 navies adds greatly to combat capability at relatively little additional cost. Over the last decade, the increase in numbers of FACs in navies of both developing and developed countries has been impressive.

Rank 3 (inshore territorial defence) navies

The addition of corvettes to the PC and FAC-dominated fleets normally signals the rise in rank from 2 to 3. Corvettes are somewhat larger than FACs, have more endurance, better seakeeping characteristics, and hence can operate farther from shore. Moreover, their relatively low cost and considerable endurance makes them ideal for patrolling exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Although most of the rank 3 navies consist of FACs and corvettes as the principal ship types, almost all have one or two larger vessels, usually frigates and small destroyers. The latter two ship types are much more combat capable but are also much more expensive to build and maintain. In addition, their crew requirements are much greater. Hence, the addition of frigates and destroyers to the fleet often indicates the intention to move up from rank 3 to a naval force with a greater geographic reach and regional interests.

Rank 4 (offshore territorial defence) navies

Destroyers, frigates, and submarines characterize these navies. The more diversified characteristics of these ships permit greater combat capabilities and defensive coverage of a larger sea area. Many rank 4 navies developed their fleets by accepting obsolescent ships contributed or sold by larger naval powers. In the past two decades, however, there has been a great increase in missile technology, which has resulted in upgrades in the capability of these older vessels. More recently, new destroyer, frigate, and submarine designs have been incorporated into rank 4 fleets. In many cases, the ships can be locally built.

"Submarines offer particular advantages for Third World navies. They combine considerable combat potential in coastal waters with relatively low cost and modest manpower requirements. A small navy with submarines can help face and deter incursions by larger and more powerful surface forces in offshore areas." (Morris 1987, p. 43) The conventional (diesel-powered) submarines operated by rank 4 navies are in contrast to the nuclear submarines which are much larger, more expensive, harder to detect, and more capable. Only a small number of countries operate nuclear submarines, which are weapon platforms with considerable offensive capability. "Operated by 43 navies, it (the submarine) is the most numerous of the major warships." (Barnaby 1991, p. 326)

Rank 5 (adjacent force projection) navies

There is an important difference between rank 5 navies and the lower rank fleets. The rank 5 naval missions are offensive in nature, and the ships are designed to project force against an adversary, rather than to act defensively to protect their coastal waters. Consequently, rank 5 navies have major warships, including in some cases cruisers and submarines with deep-water potential. North and South Korea are good examples of countries with rank 5 navies; they clearly have established their fleets with a view toward force projection against each other, albeit in a limited geographic area - the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan. Force projection usually implies at least some air power, and a characteristic of rank 5 navies is naval aviation, either shore-based or by means of helicopters carried aboard naval vessels.

Rank 6 (regional force projection) navies

Countries operating these navies aspire to project force and influence over a larger region than encompassed by their nearby enemies. India, for instance, seems to be developing a navy that will exercise command of the entire Indian Ocean, and Argentina and Brazil have naval forces designed to operate in large areas of the South Atlantic.

The law of the sea and changing naval missions

Paradoxically, the Convention on the Law of the Sea (CLS), which decrees that large areas of the oceans should be used for peaceful purposes only (UN 1983, articles 88,141,155(2)), has led to the proliferation of navies and a worldwide increase in the numbers of naval ships. Many weak coastal States that were either unable to afford them or thought them unnecessary now have navies. However, many of the new navies and the generally small ships that characterize them are only quasi military in nature. The wide acceptance of the concept of the EEZ and its codification in the CLS (UN 1983, articles 55-75) has resulted in the need for small ships to patrol large areas of the coastal oceans in order to prevent poaching and other illegal activities in EEZs.

As expressed by a well-known naval analyst, "It is rare during the preparation of this book to find one salient change occurring worldwide. This year, however,... the adoption of a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by many countries is illustrated by the dramatic increase in the number of ships clearly intended to patrol an area suddenly expanded by 98.5 percent." (Moore 1978, p. 127)

These ships need not be heavily armed, since "the enemy" is more likely to be an unarmed fishing boat than a hostile naval craft. (Morgan 1986, p. 365) Many of the least economically developed countries, such as the new Pacific island States, have acquired the largest ocean areas over which they have some degree of sovereignty, either in the form of archipelagic waters or EEZs. These are countries that can least afford navies but now need them. The size of the navy designed for EEZ surveillance and enforcement functions obviously should be based on the marine territory to be covered as well as the importance to the country of its fishery and mineral resources.

Medium power and superpower navies

Hill (1986) argues that there is a category of countries which from the standpoint of military capability should be classified as medium powers, that is with greater power than the third world countries described above and less than the superpowers. He includes among the medium powers Britain, France, India, Brazil, and Japan. Since India and Brazil have been discussed above as third world countries with rank 6 navies, it is clear that there is overlap between classifications according to Morris and Hill. Nevertheless, both authors present valid, useful arguments in their categorizations of naval power. The distinctions and the lines separating the various categories in the naval hierarchy are blurred in any case. In the specific case of China "There will be some situations in which it is appropriate to regard China as a superpower; there will be others ... in which she should be regarded as less than that. It will never be appropriate to consider her a medium power. As it has so often been through the centuries, China is sui generic." (Hill 1986, p. 19)

Medium powers may aspire to exercise seapower worldwide but are limited by resources. They must make choices, based on what they consider their vital interests and what they can afford. The United Kingdom managed to fight a war against Argentina in the Falkland Islands, thousands of miles from Britain, but it had to muster virtually all its maritime resources to do so. In contrast, the United States, a superpower, seemingly effortlessly deployed six large aircraft-carriers, a battleship, nuclear submarines, cruisers, and destroyers in the Persian Gulf to assist in the reconquest of Kuwait after its occupation by Iraq.

Both France and Britain operate small aircraft-carriers and nuclear submarines, including some designed to fire long-range nuclear-armed missiles; but neither country compares with the United States and Russia in overall naval power.

China's navy is unique in the very large number of FACs available for coastal defence. At the same time, it has destroyers and nuclear submarines. In one respect (the emphasis on FACs and other small vessels) it resembles a rank 2 navy; its ballistic missile submarines, on the other hand, might qualify it as a quasi superpower.

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