The Indian Ocean's strategic importance to China cannot be underestimated, given the oil, African minerals and container traffic that pass through it.
Yet, until now, China has been absent from the region since Admiral Zheng He sailed his fleet through in the fifteenth century, exploring and mapping the waters in a bid to extend the Celestial Empire's trading and tributary system.
Beijing's re-entry into the Indian Ocean after 600 years is part of Xi Jinping's 'Belt and Road' megaproject.
He is investing trillions of dollars in infrastructure projects around the Ocean rim, including a military base in Djibouti.
This has touched off a new and dangerous confrontation.
Ranged against China is an informal alliance of India, the US, France, Australia, and, predictably, Japan--Beijing's arch-rival in the Asia-Pacific.
Bertil Lintner unearths this dramatic story, profiling the key players, examining the economic and naval balance of power, and scrutinising New Delhi and Beijing's intense competition for the allegiance of small island nations.
China is in the Indian Ocean for the long haul, and the entry of big-power politics into this sensitive maritime region will shape its future for decades to come.