– National Interest – China has parlayed the world’s second-largest economy and second-largest defense budget into the world’s largest ongoing comprehensive naval buildup, which has already yielded the world’s second-largest navy. All that is only part of an extraordinary maritime transformation—modern history’s sole example of a land power becoming a hybrid land-sea power on a sustained basis. Underwriting this transition are a vast network of ports, shipping lines and financial systems, and increasingly advanced ships. It also raises the rare prospect of a top-tier non-Western sea power in peacetime, one of the few instances to occur since the Ming Dynasty developed cutting-edge nautical technologies and briefly projected unrivaled power across the Indian Ocean six centuries ago. These factors raise a critical question for our age: Where is China headed at sea, and to what end?