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Science of Strategy, a premier Chinese military journal connected to its National Defense University, noted the economic value of the deep seabed as early as 2015 and spoke of “military struggle in the deep sea” as a future warfare domain. Revisions to the country’s National Security Law that year also flagged the deep seabed as an area of national interest for Beijing.
As in the Arctic and Antarctic, China’s interest in economic dominance of the deep seabed has a significant military component. In 2018, a Ministry of National Defense document identified the domains relevant to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for future global operations. In addition to traditional domains like land, air, sea, and space, the document called for “confrontation activities” in areas including quantum, artificial intelligence, and, revealingly, the deep sea.