The question of how the PLAN will receive support for their deployments to the gulf of Aden is still subject to debate and here are some recently published views:
Daniel Kostecka of the US Navy explains the difference between a naval "base" vs. a "place" in the context of the The Chinese Navy’s Emerging Support Network in the Indian Ocean in the latest issue of the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief. (here)
Here are some noteworthy quotes.
While Chinese government officials and academics debate the underlying issues, a supply network of “places” is quietly taking shape [*]. Regardless of whether or not the PLAN develops its support network through a series of formal agreements that guarantee access, or continues to supply its forces as it has been, that network is developing and will in all likelihood continue to grow in the foreseeable future.
Singapore – In all of the speculation about future Chinese facilities in the Indian Ocean, Singapore has been largely ignored by pundits and military analysts. This is somewhat puzzling given Singapore’s friendly relations with Beijing and its strategic position in the Strait of Malacca, which Chinese strategists consider a critical gateway to the Indian Ocean. PLAN vessels have made four port calls to Changi Naval Base, including the May 2007 participation of a PLAN frigate in the multilateral exercise IMDEX-07 and a December 2009 visit by FFG-529 during its transit home from patrol duty in the Gulf of Aden (China Military Online, May 24, 2007; PRC Ministry of National Defense, December 8, 2009). Beijing also signed a defense agreement between China and Singapore in January 2008 that calls for increases in exchanges, educational opportunities and port calls and in July 2010, China’s defense minister pledged to further the development of military relations between China and Singapore (The Straits Times Online, January 8, 2008; Xinhua News Agency, July 14).
* The term "place" as opposed to a "base" was used by then Commander USPACOM, Admiral Thomas B. Fargo during a March 31, 2004 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, www.pacom.mil/speeches/sst2004/040331housearmedsvcscomm.shtml
Dr Andrew S. Erickson writing for "The PLA At Home And A Abroad -- Assessing The Operational Capabilities" prefers the phase "access points" or "friendly locations" to describe the PLAN's support networks.
For several years now, China has been developing a number of what Kamphausen and Liang refer to as “access points,” or “friendly locations” that are intended to enhance the PLA’s ability to project power in Asia.
Pakistan’s port of Gwadar and Sri Lanka’s port of Hambantota represent possible candidates. China has invested significantly in their development, and has made contributions over the years to the welfare of their host governments in the areas of politics, economics, and infrastructure. Perhaps the PLAN is making greatest progress in Burma, where it has reportedly assisted in the construction of several naval facilities (their precise nature undefined) on the Bay of Bengal.
Dr Andrew S. Erickso's places and access graphNo matter how it is called, the Pakistan Navy recently offered facilities, ports, logistics, maintenance among other things to the Chinese navy
Pakistan navy vows to expand co-op with China
BEIJING, July 22 (APP): Pakistan Navy is very satisfied with the performance of the F-22P frigate it bought from China and hopes to further the cooperation with the nation, said Admiral Noman Bashir, Pakistan’s Chief of Naval Staff. Two of the four F-22P frigates it ordered are already in service in Pakistan Navy, with the third one scheduled to be commissioned on September 15 this year. It is also expected that all the four ships will be in service by 2013. “We are very happy with the performance, and some technology is as good as in Western countries,” the China Daily quoted Admiral Noman Bashir, who visited China four times last year.
Pakistan also hopes to buy bigger ships with more firepower from China, such as 4,000 ton class frigates.
Pakistan has proposed to develop strategic maritime cooperation with China in both military and commercial sects, such as in fishery, economic development zones, and cargo, he said.
“The friendship between China and Pakistan is greater than the Himalayas and deeper than the Ocean. We already made progress in air force and other areas, now we should further and expand the cooperation in Navy, a broadly-based relation.”
Pakistan’s strategic geographical location in the Arabian Sea and its long coastline mean its possible contribution to the missions of China’s navy, particularly under the context of energy need from the Persian Gulf, said Pakistan officials.
Pakistan also has rich experiences in countering illegal activities at sea in order to maintain maritime security, four ships participated in anti-piracy operations, and there has been no act of maritime terrorism in its region in the recent past.
“We can provide facilities, ports, logistics, maintenance among other things (to Chinese navy),” said a Pakistan navy official.
Pakistan hopes to buy more ships from China, UK and France according to its development plan.