A recently released U.S. Maritime warfare strategy document specifies China as the only major threat to the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines, given the fast-expanding size, scope, and technological sophistication of its Navy. The strategy, called “Advantage at Sea: Prevailing With Integrated All Domain Naval Power,” specifies a number of particular concerns regarding Chinese maneuvers in the Pacific.
“China has implemented a strategy and revisionist approach that aims at the heart of the United States’ maritime power. It seeks to corrode international maritime governance, deny access to traditional logistical hubs, inhibit freedom of the seas, control use of key chokepoints, deter our engagement in regional disputes, and displace the United States as the preferred partner in countries around the world,” the strategy writes.
As part of its in-depth description of the maritime threats posed by China, the strategy raises the significant point that China has a particular mass or concentration of large Naval forces in the Pacific, one much larger than the U.S. presence in the region. While China is well known for its expansionist global ambitions in places like Africa and the Middle East, among others. Its forces do operate in large concentrated numbers in the Pacific, creating a disproportionate advantage in the region.
It is perhaps with this in mind that the strategy details several aggressive Chinese efforts, such as “militarizing” the South China Sea and asserting what the U.S. and its allies regard as “unlawful claims” to disputed territory in the area. The document also says China is “stealing” resources from other nations and building the world’s largest missile arsenal capable of threatening U.S. and allied forces in Guam and other areas throughout South East Asia.
“Whereas U.S. naval forces are globally dispersed, supporting U.S. interests and deterring aggression from multiple threats, China’s numerically larger forces are primarily concentrated in the Western Pacific,” the strategy states. At the same time, the strategy makes a key point to emphasize Chinese expansionist aims in areas such as the Indian Ocean, Arctic, and even the Atlantic Ocean.
Citing China’s “multi-layered” fleet and growing arsenal of ballistic, nuclear, and hypersonic missiles, the strategy seems to recognize that, when it comes to maritime warfare, China is by far the most serious and significant threat to the U.S. As part of this, China’s rapid military modernization, particularly its Naval forces, are now in the midst of a massive expansion, as the country deploys new Type 075 amphibious assault ships, stealthy Type 055 destroyers and multiple new aircraft carriers bearing a resemblance to the U.S. Ford-class. Added to the maritime threat equation is that China is known to be engineering a carrier-launched variant of its 5th-generation J-31 stealth fighter in a clear attempt to rival the U.S. amphibious-launched F-35B or carrier-launched F-35C. Undersea, China continues to build new Jin-class ballistic missile submarines, soon to be armed with JL-3 nuclear-armed missiles able to travel 4,000 nautical miles to a target.
When discussing the nature of the fast-growing Chinese Naval threat, the strategy calls upon the U.S. Navy to “act with urgency.”
“China’s aggressive actions are undermining the international rules-based order, while its growing military capacity and capabilities are eroding U.S. military advantages at an alarming rate. The Naval Service must act with urgency, clarity, and vision to take the bold steps required to reverse these trends,” the strategy states.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.