This paper posits that despite various traditional and non-traditional threats, the Indian Ocean is not the foremost concern in China’s quest for maritime security. As a result, China’s efforts to make foray beyond the Strait of Malacca remain limited. Three patterns in its posturing can be distinguished. First, it seeks to deter India – its main counterweight in South Asia – where it is the weakest, that is along the continental border. Second, it explores ways to reduce its reliance on the long maritime lifelines in the Indian Ocean. Third, it is gradually and modestly increasing its presence in a way that can be described as diffuse pervasion.