Just what’s China up to at sea? To casual observers, including a burgeoning legion of journalists, commentators and bloggers, China seems set on a path to becoming a major force on the world’s oceans, developing bluewater naval power with which to protect the Chinese state’s expanding economic ties to far-flung corners of the world and project political and even strategic influence. Such observers rightly note the rapid growth in China’s international seaborne trade, its shipping and shipbuilding sectors, and its marine economy and maritime interests in general. China’s naval developments over the past decade have been widely commented on, especially its high-profile purchase of Russian surface, submarine and aircraft platforms, its indigenous construction of both conventional and nuclear-powered submarines, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s groundbreaking and ongoing deployment of an anti-piracy flotilla to the Gulf of Aden. And, in the past year or so, the blogosphere and reputable security forums alike have lit up with speculation on the imminent start on the construction of China’s first aircraft carrier.