At A Glance
An initiative of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology researching US commercial maritime policy to advance American economic and military security interests.
Shipping and shipbuilding are core industries essential to a nation’s ability to project power beyond its shores. Both industries play crucial roles in economic and national security, from enabling globalized supply chains to transporting supplies overseas in a crisis. Conventional wisdom held that the relative strength of a nation’s commercial maritime capabilities would enhance or diminish its economic security and military might.
Since World War II, American policies have largely ignored that conventional wisdom and forced American maritime companies and workers to compete against foreign maritime interests on a massively uneven playing field. Today, American commercial shipping and shipbuilding industries survive thanks primarily to laws supporting a handful of American ships in international markets and reserving large US domestic markets to American ships.
In contrast, China’s President Xi Jinping explicitly embraced the conventional wisdom. Leveraging more than one hundred billion dollars in government support, China now has thousands of commercial vessels, a vast shipbuilding industrial complex, and increasing dominance over global maritime logistics. China has more navy ships than the US and is increasingly competitive in lethality.
America’s maritime policies did not contemplate Communist China’s growing geopolitical threat, provocations in the western Pacific, menacing of Taiwan, and massive buildup of commercial maritime industries. The current size of America’s maritime industrial base limits our ability to deter Chinese military action. And Beijing’s growing dominance over shipbuilding and global maritime logistics confers increasing control over America’s commercial supply chains and could seriously constrain Washington’s freedom of action in future crises.
Hudson Institute’s Center for Defense Concepts and Technology (CDCT) and the Navy League’s Center for Maritime Strategy (CMS) have launched the American Maritime Security Initiative to research and bring public awareness to the many concerns flowing from these developments and to explore options for changes in US commercial maritime policy that will advance American economic and military security interests in this sector.