The Chinese state of late has belligerence on her mind. An Asian superpower, she is well on her way to changing the unipolar world dominated by the U.S. to a multipolar one; her growing economic and military might and rapid territorial expansion are causing concern in other Asian countries.
The 100 years of communist rule commemorated on the 1st of July, 2021, saw president Xi donning a Mao Zedong suit and letting the world take notice of an eventual superpower who has learnt from the past and would not allow anyone to push her around. Xi’s tone was of pride and gratitude towards his country and a warning for the world.
China has been throwing her weight on her neighbours. A ‘gross aggression’ held a U.S. official at the Quad meeting in 2020. The Quad has behind its inception the threat of China on the Indo-Pacific region.
China lays claim to the disputed South and East China seas. On the south, she is at loggerheads with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan; on the Eastern Sea; she is against Japan.
Behind China’s desire to dominate the Indo-Pacific is its growing navy- advancing and upgrading at astonishing levels. The Chinese naval power, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been recognized as the largest navy globally by the recent U.S. defense department’s report. The PLAN has surpassed the U.S. navy’s warships 360 to 297, and the differential between the two is growing in the future: by 2025, the PLAN expects to have around 400 vessels; the U.S., by contrast, is at 355. But a deeper look at the statement reveals how it is still a few notches behind the U.S.
Should the odds of winning a battle or a war be on the basis of numerical superiority, then the world wouldn’t have seen much smaller armies rout larger forces. Similarly, the numerical superiority of the Chinese naval force isn’t a guarantor of ocean dominance.
The U.S. has two aces up its sleeve: its naval force structure with astounding firepower capabilities; and allies in the indo-pacific. The U.S. naval fleet at 4.5 million tons displaces twice as much as the Chinese. The awesome tons which the U.S. packs gives it superior firepower and, on the offensive front, would matter more than the number of fleets deployed.
In case of any eventuality, the U.S. fleet is ready with 10,196 offensive missiles launched through ships or submarines such as Harpoon, Naval Strike Missiles, and Tomahawk land-attack missiles.
The other technological advantage that assures the Americans’ superiority in naval warfare is their brilliant Mark-41 vertical-launch-system-cells and latest anti-air weapons that also assure safety from the skies. The anti-air defence system in itself cancels out the PLAN’s ambitious designs.
The PLAN currently boasts of ‘’two aircraft carriers, one cruiser, 32 destroyers, 49 frigates, 37 corvettes, and 86 missile-armed coastal patrol ships’’. In addition, the Chinese submarine offensive includes ‘’46 diesel-powered attack submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines, and four ballistic missile submarines’’. This in addition to the Chinese Coast Guard, which comprises of 255 coastal patrol ships. ‘’In sum, China has a surface warship fleet of 121 vessels, a submarine fleet of 56 platforms, and another 341 coastal patrol ships.’’
The United States Navy on the other hand, comprises of ‘’11 aircraft carriers, 92 cruisers and destroyers, and 59 small surface combatants and combat logistics ships. In addition, its submarine fleet is comprised of 50 attack submarines, 14 ballistic missile submarines, and four cruise missile submarines. As such, the United States maintains a surface fleet of about 162 vessels, depending on the inclusion of its small combatants and combat logistics ships, and a submarine fleet of 68 platforms.’’
China’s naval defences are mostly borne by the smaller ships such as frigate and corvette; the numerical superiority which has gained it the largest naval fleet in the world epithet comes from the coastal patrol ships!
The U.S. clearly overpowers, outlasts easily any Chinese offensive.
The other ace up the U.S.’ sleeve is its allies in the indo-pacific (QUAD for one). Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, India are U.S. allies which China lacks. South Korea and Japan are guaranteed protection by the U.S., but they are no novices in warfare. The Koreans and the Japanese are themselves a force to reckon with: Japan maintains one of the largest surface fleets in the world, and South Korea boasts of an impressive number of warships counting at 23.
The PLAN’s ambitions and expansionist designs are supplemented with its constant additions and improvements to its existing fleets by 2030, yet the U.S. has not much cause of concern based on its technological and massive naval capabilities. The unipolar world on the seas exists and points to its continued existence despite the other side gaining numbers.