Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts History Rhymes: The German Precedent for Chinese Seapower

History Rhymes: The German Precedent for Chinese Seapower


We compare the rise of Chinese seapower today to the rise of Imperial German seapower a century ago. The comparison is worthwhile for two reasons. First, the comparison holds merits in its own right. We use German Admiral Wolfgang Wegener’s three indices of seapower–strategic position, the fleet, and strategic will to the sea–to assess the two countries’ maritime potential. This analysis leads inexorably to the conclusion that China holds far more potential for seapower that did the Kaiser’s Germany. And second, the Chinese themselves are consulting German history as they inquire into the triumphs and failures of past great powers. Trying to divine how they interpret the German experience could let Western practitioners and scholars of grand strategy glimpse China’s maritime future. In turn they can improve their own handling of strategy in East Asia.

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