The Buzz

A Recent Report Warned China Could Have 351 Naval Vessels by 2020

The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.

China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.

The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.

While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.

The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.

China's rapid development of new destroyers, amphibs, stealth fighters and long-range weapons is quickly increasing its ability to threaten the United States and massively expand expeditionary military operations around the globe, according to a Congressional report.

A detailed report from Congressional experts, called the 2016 US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, specifies China's growing provocations and global expeditionary exercises along with its fast-increasing ability to project worldwide military power.

As examples, the report catalogues a number of aggressive Chinese military or maritime militia encounters:

-  In May 2016, two PLA Air Force fighters conducted an unsafe intercept of a U.S. EP-3 aircraft, causing the EP-3 to dive away to avoid a collision.

-   In 2013, a PLA Navy ship crossed the U.S. guided missile cruiser Cowpens’ bow, causing the ship to alter course to avoid a collision.

-  In 2009, the U.S. Navy ship Impeccable was harassed by maritime militia boats in the South China Sea.

- In 2001, a PLA Navy fighter collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.

Additional instances of Chinese provocation in recent year include placement of surface-to-air-missiles and fighters in sensitive areas of the South China Sea, along with its announcement of an "Air exclusion zone."  While the US military flew B-52 bombers through this declared zone in a demonstration of defiance, the move did demonstrate China's growing willingness to be aggressive. In addition, Chinese "land reclamation" and territorial claims in the South China Sea, prompting US "freedom of navigation exercises" to unambiguously thwart China's claims.

As part of a detailed effort to document China's growing influence as an expeditionary global power, the Congressional report highlights a range of Chinese deployments and worldwide exercises beyond their borders or more immediate regional influence. From the report:

- 2012, China deployed its first UN peacekeeping combat forces to the UN Mission in South Sudan to provide security for PLA engineering and medical personnel.

 - Indian Ocean far sea deployments: In early 2014, Chinese surface combatants carried out far sea training, during which they transited through the South China Sea, into the eastern Indian Ocean, and then sailed back to China through the Philippine Sea. During the 23-day deployment, the PLA Navy conducted training associated with antisubmarine warfare, air defense, electronic warfare, and expeditionary logistics.

- In addition to ongoing antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, China dispatched an intelligence gathering ship to the Indian Ocean in 2012, and has deployed four classes of submarines (both nuclear and conventionally powered) to the Indian Ocean.

The 2016 report, coupled with the commissions detailed chapter on Chinese military modernization in a prior 2014 report, bring a sharpened focus upon the detail of Chinese ship, weapons and aircraft improvement and construction.

At the same time, despite these developments, the report does point out the China will need to sustain its current pace of military expansion for years to come in order to truly rival the US military's global reach.

"To support, sustain, and defend long range operations, the PLA must continue to develop or procure large amphibious ships, heavy lift aircraft, and logistical support capabilities, as well as continue to improve command and control capabilities," the report states.

Chinese Navy

While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.

China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to the Congressional reports.

The  2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.

Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China's one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck.