A US report claims China’s PLA Navy (PLAN) has been steadily modernizing since the mid-1990s and has now become “a powerful military force” in coastal waters.
This is a revised version of the US Congressional Research Service’s annual report, “Modernizing China’s Navy: Implications for US Naval Capabilities,” according to USNI. The original report, which was filed in October last year, was revised on January 22.
The revised report apparently admits that China‘s navy has the most ships in the world and that the continued improvement of its capabilities poses a threat to the US Navy’s control of the Western Pacific. The report recommends that the US Congress assess whether the Navy is indeed prepared to deal with a modernized PLAN.
The report tacitly calls for efforts to prepare for the challenge posed by this modernization, especially in the Western Pacific which has traditionally been a US stronghold.
He categorically states that the Chinese Navy is expanding its operations into more remote areas, with ships entering waters near the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Europe.
This assertion underscores the fact that while U.S. political and military policymakers have made concerted efforts to counter China’s growing dominance in seas far from its territorial waters, they have achieved little success. India remains on the sidelines while China has gradually moved towards Europe and the Middle East with its Belt and Road Initiative.
The report further states that at a time when the US Navy is achieving and maintaining dominance in the Western Pacific, the advance of the Chinese Navy is increasingly seen as a challenge to that capability.
According to the study, this is the first time the US Navy has faced a situation since the Cold War. China’s navy is the most important aspect of China’s long-term goal of challenging American supremacy.
US Navy Vs PLAN
According to research, China’s navy is the largest in East Asia. In terms of the number of combat ships, the Chinese Navy overtook the US fleet a few years ago.
It should be noted that the United States has at least two major allies in the region, Japan and South Korea. It also has considerable influence among ASEAN states that are in direct conflict with China in the South China Sea.
The US Department of Defense noted in the study: “The People’s Liberation Army Navy has about 355 ships, including major maritime warships, submarines, aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, minesweepers and other auxiliary vessels. This figure excludes 85 patrol boats and combat platforms armed with anti-ship missiles.
Some US analysts are concerned about the Chinese navy’s shipbuilding capabilities. According to the Pentagon, the number of PLA Navy ships is expected to reach 420 by 2025 and 460 by 2030.
China is also set to launch its third locally developed aircraft carrier soon, which will boost its capabilities at sea with the advanced catapult launch system. A fourth aircraft carrier, which is expected to have nuclear capabilities, is also in the works, according to the SCMP.
The ship, which will be the third Chinese carrier but the first to be equipped with modern technology, will likely be larger than the previous two, which were based on outdated Soviet designs. pic.twitter.com/gezMCldMmu
– Indo-Pacific News – Watch CCP-China Threat (@IndoPac_Info) September 18, 2020
China’s naval modernization plans encompass a wide range of warship, aircraft and weapons procurement programs, as well as improvements in maintenance and logistics, rules, personnel quality, l education and training and exercises.
According to the research, although the Chinese Navy currently has some limitations and vulnerabilities, it is working hard to overcome them.
New ships have been launched at an alarming rate. Between 2014 and 2018, China launched more submarines, warships, amphibious ships and auxiliaries than the combined navy of Germany, India, Spain and the United Kingdom .
In 2019, China’s navy consisted of 335 ships, making it larger than the US Navy’s 296 ships. Learn more about China’s naval modernization efforts: https://t.co/lj8rQawwyX pic.twitter.com/5nbdiTLsyj
— ChinaPower (@ChinaPowerCSIS) September 10, 2021
China ordered eighteen ships in 2016 alone, and at least 14 more were added in 2017. By comparison, the US Navy ordered five ships in 2016 and eight ships in 2017, according to an earlier report by China Power. .
Beijing has made significant efforts to modernize its navy. At the 18th Party Congress in 2012, then-President Hu Jintao urged China to become a “sea power” capable of protecting its territorial rights and interests.
Current President Xi Jinping said in April 2018 that “the mission of building a great navy has never been more vital than it is today.” China’s 2019 defense white paper stressed the need to “create a robust and modernized naval force” capable of conducting “large-scale operations”.
Is China aiming to change the status quo?
According to the report, China’s military modernization efforts, including naval modernization, are believed to be aimed at building the capability to solve the Taiwan problem.
The communist country views the autonomous island as a breakaway province and is determined to reunite it with the mainland. Beijing believes that within 200 nautical miles of the South China Sea, it can solve the Taiwan problem militarily.
China claims 200 nautical miles (nm) from the edge of the territorial sea as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), in which it claims the right to govern military operations.
The United Nations maintains that freedom of navigation for armed vessels is a globally established and accepted norm inherent in international law – in other words, states have no power to limit navigation or exercise control in EEZ for security reasons.
For this very reason, the U.S. Seventh Fleet often conducts freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) in the disputed region. Recently, the Chinese Navy chased an American warship.
— Fintech Asia (@toptentravelde1) January 23, 2022
China’s obsession with Taiwan can be gauged by the fact that PLA planes continue to violate the latter’s airspace even as Beijing insists on the reunification of the island. It also intruded into Japanese airspace, as Tokyo hinted that it would support Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
In addition, China’s military modernization goals include maintaining China’s sea lines of communication, especially China’s sea route to the Persian Gulf, replacing US influence in the Western Pacific, and consolidating of China’s position as a regional force and an important international power, according to the report.
To achieve these goals, China wants its navy to be part of its efforts to acquire regional anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities, which aim to prevent U.S. participation in Chinese waters, including the participation American in Taiwan and in other conflicts.
Even if these goals cannot be achieved, US military intervention should be postponed or the effectiveness of US military action reduced, according to the report.
The report also references two Chinese-developed anti-ship ballistic missiles that can strike ships at sea – the DF-21D and DF-26 – while describing China’s anti-access capabilities. The DF-21D is a road-mobile ballistic missile with a range of over 1,500 kilometers.
On the other hand, the DF-26 is a versatile and mobile medium-range missile with a range of up to 4,000 kilometers. According to the Pentagon, the missile “can carry conventional and nuclear bombs for pinpoint strikes on land and sea targets.”
These two missiles are known as carrier killers and have the ability to cause severe damage to an opponent’s fleet in the event of a conflict. In fact, the DF-26 can pose a serious threat to US assets in Guam.
While the research report mentions the threat posed by the PLAN’s size and modernization, it also reports on the steps taken by the US Navy to counterbalance China’s growing naval power.
The US Navy Strikes Back
The Congressional Research Service report notes a number of moves to modernize the US fleet in response to the Chinese navy, such as bolstering naval operations in the Pacific.
The US Navy has deployed its strongest new ships, aircraft and best troops to the Pacific, maintaining or expanding deployment and training activities in the region. Additionally, the US Navy has strengthened cooperation with its allies in the Indo-Pacific, including cooperation with other navies.
– US Naval Institute (@NavalInstitute) January 24, 2022
In response to China’s development of anti-access/area denial capabilities, the United States Navy has increased the size of the planned future navy, launched and accelerated many new military science and technology programs, and purchased new ships. , aircraft and unmanned aerial devices. Vehicles.
The service is expected to begin construction of its next-generation DDG(X) battleship in 2028 to replace older warships. It would be the largest warship the US Navy has attempted to build in over 20 years.
It will be designed to “drive a new generation of directed energy weapons and high-powered sensors that will follow the Navy’s current fleet Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyers,” according to the report.
The US Navy said that in the future, it will focus more on distributed ship deployment and deploy a large number of ships and unmanned aircraft.
The report thus indicates that the stage is set for more vigorous competition at sea, particularly in the Western Pacific.