Exploring China’s Unmanned Ocean Network

Center for Strategic and International Studies – China has deployed a network of sensors and communications capabilities between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands in the northern South China Sea. These capabilities are part of a “Blue Ocean Information Network” (蓝海信息网络) developed by China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), a state-owned company, to aid in the exploration and control of the maritime environment using information technology. The network constructed in the northern South China Sea between early 2016 and 2019 is referred to as a demonstration system. However, future plans for the Blue Ocean Information Network involve expanding the sensor and communications network to the rest of the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and other ocean areas far from Chinese territory. While the Blue Ocean Information Network is largely cast as an environmental monitoring and communications system, the military utility of its sensing and communications functions makes its development important to monitor.