China is a leader in the global transportation industry, with an especially significant position in ocean ports. A mapping of every ocean port outside of China reveals that Chinese firms own or operate terminal assets in ninety-six ports in fifty-three countries. An original dataset of Chinese firms' overseas port holdings documents the geographic distribution, ownership, and operational characteristics of these ports. What are the international security implications of China's global port expansion? An investigation of Chinese firms' ties to the Party-state reveals multiple mechanisms by which the Chinese leadership may direct the use of commercial port assets for strategic purposes. International port terminals that Chinese firms own and operate already provide dual-use capabilities to the People's Liberation Army during peacetime, establishing logistics and intelligence networks that materially enable China to project power into critical regions worldwide. But this form of networked state power is limited in wartime because it depends on commercial facilities in non-allied states. By providing evidence that overseas bases are not the sole index of global power projection capabilities, findings advance research on the identification and measurement of sources of national power. China's leveraging of PRC firms' transnational commercial port network constitutes an underappreciated but consequential form of state power projection.

You do not currently have access to this content.