China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative: Implications for the Global Maritime Supply Chain

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Thursday, October 17, 2019 @ 02:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Official Transcript

Witness List:

Panel I
Mr. Chad Sbragia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China, Office of the Secretary of Defense | Written Testimony
Lieutenant General Giovanni K. Tuck, Director for Logistics, J4, Joint Chiefs of Staff | Written Testimony
Ms. Carolyn Bartholomew, Chairwoman, United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission | Written Testimony

Panel II
Mr. Jonathan E. Hillman, Director, Reconnecting Asia Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies | Written Testimony
Dr. Jeffrey Becker, Research Program Director, Center for Naval Analysis | Written Testimony
Ms. Kathleen Walsh, Associate Professor of National Security Affairs, Naval War College | Written Testimony

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Ranking Member Bob Gibbs (R-OH):

First, let me note how sorry I was to hear this morning of the passing of former Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Elijah Cummings. 

As Chairman, he shepherded through Congress the 2010 Coast Guard Authorization Act, which made significant improvements to the Coast Guard’s acquisition program and enhanced its marine safety efforts.  When the Coast Guard frustrated him, he very eloquently used the Chairman’s seat to ensure that no witness ever left the Subcommittee unclear of where he stood.  

In this Congress, I served on the Committee on Oversight and Government where I came to appreciate the passion he devoted to his chairmanship.

I pray for his family, friends, and staff, that they find peace and strength in his memory and legacy.

Turning to today’s topic, China has developed an industrial policy to align with its foreign policy and has now expanded that policy outward through efforts to control the means of conducting international maritime trade – the same means used to project military force.  

China has developed an extensive shipbuilding industrial base and controls the third largest container line in the world.  The Maritime Silk Road Initiative builds on those capabilities by financing port, road, and energy infrastructure in 126 countries in the Pacific basin and on routes to Europe. 

There are two concerns about these investments: first, the dual commercial and military uses of these assets; second, that the debt incurred by these countries will tie them to China in ways that will facilitate China’s international pursuits and potentially inhibit U.S. overseas operations.     

The U.S.-flag fleet has retreated from the world stage.  Only a remnant remains to provide sealift capacity for the Department of Defense.  However, for even that small fleet to be useful it has access to port facilities throughout the world.  I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today whether the access to such ports is jeopardized by China’s effort to extend its influence through the Maritime Silk Road Initiative.

I am also interested in China’s efforts to gain a foothold in the Arctic.  China has declared itself an Arctic adjacent country and has built two research icebreakers in the last decade.  The United States – an actual Arctic nation – is only now beginning an icebreaker recapitalization program.

In contrast to the Chinese Maritime Silk Road Initiative, after five years, neither of the last two administrations has managed to produce a legislatively mandated National Maritime Strategy.   Perhaps today’s hearing will prompt MARAD to meet the latest statutory deadline, next February, for this plan.

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