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Opinion
James Stavridis

China’s Next Naval Target Is the Internet’s Underwater Cables

Worried about Huawei’s 5G? Wait till it gets into the game for 95 percent of all data and voice traffic.

Underwater eyes on China.

Underwater eyes on China.

Photographer: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam K. Thomas/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Corrected

As the West considers the threat posed by China’s naval ambitions, there is a natural tendency to place overarching attention on the South China Sea. This is understandable: Consolidating it would provide Beijing with a huge windfall of oil and natural gas, and a potential chokehold over up to 40 percent of the world’s shipping.

But this is only the most obvious manifestation of Chinese maritime strategy. Another key element, one that’s far harder to discern, is Beijing’s increasing influence in constructing and repairing the undersea cables that move virtually all the information on the internet. To understand the totality of China’s “Great Game” at sea, you have to look down to the ocean floor.