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  • Dragon Week: China’s Growing Naval Power

    While China has a seafaring past, in modern times, it has not been known for its navy. The ground forces of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—the collective name for China’s armed forces—has long been the dominant military service in the People’s Republic of China.

    In fact, it has been said anecdotally that the country’s founder, Mao Zedong, was so focused on the army after taking power in 1949 that it was not until 1953 that he made his first tour of the Chinese navy, spending a few days, possibly reluctantly, visiting some rust-bucket frigates.

    But that has changed.

    The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is applying some spit and polish, taking in the lines, and going to sea like never before. And as such, recent developments in Chinese naval weapons systems and policies demand that we sit up and take notice of Asia’s largest maritime force. For instance:

    • Beijing has made sovereign claims over the East China, South China, and Yellow Seas, assertions that defy widely held views of freedom of navigation. These claims have led to some near-clashes with U.S. forces operating in these areas in international waters.
    • The reported development and initial operating capability of an anti-ship ballistic missile capable of scuttling a U.S. aircraft carrier is also a concern. Some defense experts have called the weapon a “game changer.”
    • China is also involved in a significant naval modernization and building program. According to some analysis, China has added as many as 30 submarines to its fleet in the past decade, dwarfing the number of new submarines added to that of other major sea powers. And since the early 1990s, China has deployed at least nine new destroyer and frigate classes.
    • Strategically, it is sending its nuclear deterrent to sea aboard its new Jin-class (or Type 094) fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), which will carry 12 of the new JL-2 intercontinental-range sea-launched ballistic missiles. China’s follow-on SSBN, the Type 096, is estimated to carry 24 JL-2s.
    • In defiance of the prognosticators who said China would never go in this direction, it is also expected that Beijing will send a prototype aircraft carrier to sea this year, portending that we may no longer be the only flattop navy in the Pacific.

    In the end, while the Pacific has long been considered an American lake, that idea can no longer be taken for granted with the rise of China’s navy. It is certainly something we must keep in mind as we look at the future of U.S. defense budgets and naval shipbuilding programs.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Dragon Week: China’s Growing Naval Power

    1. Brian, PA says:

      How does China get all of the money necessary to support a military build-up of this scale? Simple…from the US. We are China's second biggest trading partner behind the EU, importing $296B from China and only exporting $70B to them as of 2009 (http://www.uschina.org/statistics/tradetable.html). Take a look…virtually everything you see at Target and Wa-lmart is "Made in China". Doesn't it make sense that we could seriously curtail their military buildup while simultaneously increasing our own employment by starting to make some of our stuff here in the good ole US?

    2. Will S., Illinois says:

      I would like to thank the Heritage Institute for recognizing, finally, the Chinese military threat. Perhaps they could have mentioned it during the START debate, but back then Russia was a far greater enemy, right?

      In all seriousness, the problem facing the US military is that the current approach to power, surface ships and manned carrier aircraft, may not be adequate in the future, because of the anti-ship ballistic missile. As defense supporting conservatives, we ought to push for a dedicated experimentation to find the best method of deterring China, wherever that leads us.

      The biggest change that should be made is the removal of the stigma surrounding the China threat. The military, under wraps, is preparing to contain / challenge China, but they won't dare mention it in public. If that can be changed, it'll be clarifying and good.

      As a larger point, the US won't have a hope in containing China unless it fixes its budget problem, and the budget won't be fixed until the entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, and the military's TriCare, are revised. That is where true conservatives should focus their work, those are the hard battles, which must be won if we wish to contain China.

    3. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Will, we ain't fixin' anything!

      As pointed out by Rush Limbaugh today (01/20/11)

      The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner hosted a dinner honoring a person who is holding the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Winner in Prison! And another Nobel Peace Prize Winner (Jimmy Carter attended that dinner)

      Just think about it!

      China has 11% of our national debt and the interest we are paying them covers almost half of their military spending. They spend $75 per person in China and they spend $1 for every $10 we spend on defense. We spend over $2,200 per person in the USA. They keep themselves out of foreign entanglements while we are in two big ones and considering getting into two more!

      They are smart government spenders – we spend with the "money is no object" concept. Just throw some money at it and it will solve itself. We are stupid. Well, because of our wasteful ways we are in the tank, and they are not.

      Why can they build this stuff – because they can. Why aren't we – cause we have better things to do – like building useless buildings and giving people a free life without having to work for it. Considering we are spending almost a trillion dollars on defense – we should be able to do far more – why aren't we? Because we don't want to.

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    5. Matt, Colo Springs, says:

      Thank you Heritage for posting up what the state controlled media truthfully won't. I 2nd the comments made before me in this article. Unleash the power of innovation and dramatically reign in our budget spending spree on furnishing the mooches entitlements (welfare, social security, medicaid, medicare and illegal immigrants) and start spending on what really matters: national defense!!!

    6. H_Thunder says:

      Unfortunately there are no easy answers to the threat posed by Chinese naval modernization. We could begin by reducing our obsession with the Middle East, but there is little likelihood of that happening. The truth is that 99% of the focus of China's military is on the United States, while less than half of ours is on them. Their systems are being designed to fit together in such a way as to target our weakest nodes. Our systems are being designed to hunt fleeing terrorists through the underbrush. Meanwhile, Chinese satellites are being launched in vast numbers: http://www.chinesenavyinfo.com

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