China's sea power has been a continual discussion among scholars and policymakers, specifically regarding the kind of maritime power China is about to develop. Many strategists assume that China has adopted the Mahanian approach of constructing a strong naval power through the control of major merchant sea-lanes and offshore bases. However, this assumption is problematic. Since the mid-2000s, many Chinese scholars and strategists have proposed various approaches to how China should become a strong maritime power using alternative methods. This article organizes these approaches into different schools of thought and examines how they are developed. After years of policy debate on sea power construction, Chinese academics and policy practitioners have agreed that China could develop its sea powers not just with a dominant navy, but also through an emphasis on the importance of domestic maritime governance and diplomatic coercion. This approach goes beyond any understanding of Mahanianism. These findings help to reveal new perspectives with which to understand China's multidimensional sea power, especially the use of gray-zone strategy in the South China Sea in recent years.