News Focus

Maritime Ambitions

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Science  09 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6184, pp. 572-575
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6184.572

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Thirty years ago, China didn't have a single underwater archaeologist. Today the country is spearheading exploratory missions in its waters and beyond, with an estimated hundreds of wrecks awaiting excavation. As it makes a soft power push into Asia and Africa, China is also resuscitating the memory of the 15th century seafarer Zheng He, claiming that his voyages were peaceful, and funding projects in countries with submerged riches. But foreign archaeologists note that the outlay comes as China is pressing territorial claims in the South China Sea—and worry that Zheng He's history is being rewritten.