Is This the Future of Chinese Submarine Power?

June 19, 2017 Topic: Security Region: China Tags: ChinaSubmarinesNaval BuildupNavyMaritime Power

Is This the Future of Chinese Submarine Power?

There are hints that China might pursue foreign basing for its submarine force.

There is substantial evidence in this piece that the PLA Navy has an acute sense of threat perception. The authors matter-of-factly state: “We are facing the United States’ nuclear blackmail, nuclear menace, and conventional threats [面临着美国的核讹诈、核威胁及常规威胁].” To state the obvious, exaggerating the threat or challenge posed by China’s submarine force could well intensify rivalry, and thus make the problem even worse. It is worth emphasizing that all points of doctrine advocated in this piece are ones routinely practiced by Western navies, including obviously the U.S. Navy. China is hardly alone in coming to the conclusion that formidable and wide-ranging undersea power can be an effective tool to “influence the judgements, decisions, and actions of target state authorities [影响目标国家当局的判断, 决策和行动].”

Deterrence, defense of widespread and legitimate economic interests, as well as cooperative maritime security endeavors, are all also major themes of this important doctrinal statement for the future Chinese submarine force. Thus, American strategists should take this revelation regarding Chinese undersea ambitions in stride, maintaining an open mind with respect to a greater Chinese naval presence on and indeed under the world’s oceans, even as the United States itself must energetically seeks to maintain robust undersea warfare capabilities into the future.

Lyle J. Goldstein is an associate professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. The opinions expressed in this analysis are his own and do not represent the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. government.

Image: A Chinese Kilo with the red flag​. Wikimedia Commons