“It’s doubtful any Chinese president worth his salt would place Chinese interests in the East or South China Sea in jeopardy for uncertain stakes in the Indian Ocean”[1] said U.S. Naval College professor James Holmes in an article published on October 7.

Lanka’s Colombo port was visited in early September 2014 by a P.L.A.N. (People’s Liberation Army Navy) diesel powered 039 SONG[2] class submarine (the name of the submarine is “The Great Wall” and the registration number is 0329[3]). This was one of the rare visits of a Chinese diesel powered submarine in a foreign port and the first time when such submarine emerged in the Indian Ocean[4] and followed another visit of a nuclear powered Chinese submarine in the Indian Ocean (093 SHANG class)[5], made at the beginning of 2014[6]. The seven days stay of the Chinese submarine was scheduled to cover the one day visit of the Chinese president Xi Jingping in Sri Lanka, and after this the submarine continued its voyage to the P.L.A.N. task force deployed near the Somali coast, for providing support to the counter-piracy operation in the area[7].

It is already very clear that China started to project its naval power far away from national borders and this fact already influenced, in a way or another, the strategic praxis and thinking of all other global and regional players. China started to put some pressure on India, firstly with the “string of pearls – a network of Mahanian[8]naval bases”[9] in the Indian Ocean, and secondly by sending its military ships in the area in short visits marking, maybe, the permanent presence of the Chinese P.L.A.N. in an area which is traditionally regarded by India like her “property”. This situation obviously alarmed the Indian military as they try to improve their naval and air combat capabilities, especially with the new aircraft carriers and submarine construction programs.  Not only the Indian Navy is alerted, but also the Indian Army which has mobilized in September several thousand troops, as requested by the Indian P.M. Narandra Modi who “sent a tough message”[10] on Kashmir incidents to the Chinese president Xi Jingming during their three days New Delhi summit. The troops were pulled back by both countries on September 30, 2014[11].

            This Chinese pressure on the Indian Ocean is following the constant pressure exerted by China over Taiwan[12], and the recent aggressive attitudes towards Japan[13] of the same P.L.A.N.

            On the other hand, China is improving the commercial relations with the Russian Federation[14] and a the same time Beijing allows – to put it mildly – the illegal Chinese immigration into the Far-East regions of Russia[15].

            If we will look at all these facts and developments separately, it might give us a puzzling and misleading image of the Chinese strategic thinking. But maybe if we look at all those pieces of information through the glasses of a hypothetical Go player, something will change and a clearer image will appear.

In ancient China, a shi dofu (or scholar-gentry) was recquired to have four accomplishments [16]: the Qin which is the art of mastering the stringed Guqin, the strategy board game of Go [17], the Chinese calligraphy Shu and Hua, or the Chinese painting. So we have music performed with a very technical instrument, strategy, calligraphy and painting. All these mean Arts and Strategy; or Strategy and Arts.

The American Go association has quite recently published a ten point list of reasons motivating anyone who would want to play Go. The first reason is: “Go is the simplest of all games - when we play go, we try to surround territory and to avoid being surrounded. No muss, no fuss, no thought-up fancy rules. The distilled essence of ‘game’ in one simple concept”[18]. Just another piece of the information: the total estimated number of possible moves in Go is 10174 and in chess is 10120, as estimated by mathematicians [19]. What a good Go player would do? A possible answer is present in David Ormerod’s article “5 tips for dealing with unexpected moves in Go”:[20]:“1. Be calm, and take your time; 2. Respect your opponent; 3. Look at the game from your opponent’s perspective; 4. Read ahead as best you can; 5. Keep it simple”

Taking all these into account, maybe the name of the game the Chinese strategists are playing now in different parts of the World Ocean is ‘reality Go’.



[1]James HOLMES, “Coming to the Indian Ocean, the Chinese Navy: How Should India Respond?”, October 7, 2014, text accessed at the Internet address

[2] James BROWN, “Chinese Subs Lurk Under the Indian Ocean: Cause for Concern?”, September 29, 2014, text accessed at the Internet address

[3] Ibidem

[4] Ibidem

[5] “Type 093 Shang-class Nuclear Attack Submarine”, text accessed at the Internet address

[6] “Type 39 / Song Class Attack Submarine”, text accessed at the Internet address

[7]James BROWN, op. cit.

[8] Benjamin ARMSTRONG, “Mahan, the Forgotten Grand Strategist”, June 25, 2013, text accessed at the Internet address

[9] James HOLMES, op. cit.

[10] Gardiner HARRIS,“India Takes Tough Stance with China on Kashmir”, September 18, 2014, text accessed at the Internet address

[11] Ibidem

[12] Shannon TIEZZI,“Taiwan Will Not Cooperate with China in South China Sea”, May 15, 2014, text accessed at the iInternet address

[13] Harry J. KAZIANIS, “If China and Japan Went to War: What Would America do?”, June 21, 2014, text accessed at the Internet address

[14] Erica DOWNS, “In China-Russia gas deal, why China wins more”, June 20, 2014, text accessed at the Internet address

[15] Peter ZEIHAN, “Analysis: Russia's Far East Turning Chinese”, July 14 (year not clear), textaccessed at the Internet address

[16] “The Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar”, text accessed at the Internet address, 2014

[17] Tony ATKINS,“Weiqi (Go): The Martial Art of the Scholar”, text accessed at the Internet address on

[18] “Top Ten Reasons To Play Go”,text accessed at the Internet address

[19] Milton N. BRADLEY, “Comparison Between Chess And Go”, text accessed at the Internet address

[20] David ORMEROD, “5 tips for dealing with unexpected moves in Go”, text accessed at the Internet address

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