Commander Justin Jones is Navy Fellow and maritime advisor to the MacArthur Foundation Asia Security Project at the Lowy Institute.
Firstly, news has emerged that the US Navy and PLA Navy cooperated during a piracy response operation over the weekend. USS Winston Churchill and USNS Lewis and Clarke initially responded to a distress call made by MV Tai An Kou, which was being attacked by pirates in the North Arabian Sea. The PLA frigate Xuzhou then joined with the US ships and, following a handover, conducted the boarding operation. The US and Chinese ships remained in communication throughout.
Analysis: while the focus is on friction between the US and Chinese in East Asia and the South China Sea, don't miss the important steps towards cooperation and collaboration occurring further west.
Last week's Maritime Linkage included the proposition that 2010 may mark the second shipbuilding boom for China. Here is the latest update from around the Chinese shipyards. The second of the Type 071 class LPD (landing platform dock – an amphibious ship) has progressed rapidly over the last three months. This is a product of modular construction techniques. Hulls seem to progress from bottom plates to whole ship in short order. Modules may be built, complete with internal fittings, in any number of shipyards, then shipped to the prime contractor and welded together on the slip. It makes for relatively quick hull construction. Also included is the latest imagery of the PLA's aircraft carrier (ex Russian) under modernisation at Dalian.
In air developments, news sites, the blogosphere and twitterverse have been awash with commentary on last week's Zhuhai air show. China appears to be investing heavily in unmanned air vehicles (see image above, via this site). More than twenty five types were on show during the week, with mounting speculation that the quality will soon match those of the US and Israel.
Most significant was an exhibit titled 'long range sea defense system' (reports here and here). The display depicted a multi-axis attack on a carrier strike group (unflagged, but the image closely resembles the only type of super carrier currently in use) approaching Chinese waters. This is the first time that such a concept has been aired publicly. The report suggests that no one must have told the exhibitors to keep Chinese military ambitions under wraps. I suspect something else — it's a fine example of information operations at work.