Beijing has spent billions of dollars on beefing up its military capabilities, as it seeks to catch up and overhaul the US. Turning the the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into a leading fighting force to match the power and might of the US military has been a burning ambition of President Xi Jinping. Mr Xi ordered a sweeping overhaul of China’s fighting capabilities in 2015, ordering investments in shipyards and technology that continues today.
And the results already appear to be paying off in spectacular style, as Beijing assembles a naval fighting force that has become the largest in the world.
Since 2015, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has increased the size of its fighting force by over 100 vessels.
According to data provided by the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the PLAN boasted 255 battle force ships in 2015.
By 2020 it had as many as 360, which is over 60 more than the US Navy.
The expansion in size of China’s navy is even more striking if one goes back to the beginning of the current millennium.
In a report published in December last year, leaders of the US Navy, Marines and Coast Guard wrote: “China’s navy battle force has more than tripled in size in only two decades.
“Already commanding the world’s largest naval force, the People’s Republic of China is building modern surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, amphibious assault ships, ballistic nuclear missile submarines, large coast guard cutters, and polar icebreakers at alarming speed.”
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Nick Childs, a defence analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told CNN: “The big advantage the Chinese navy holds over the US Navy is in patrol and coastal combatants, or corvettes and below.”
Those smaller ships are augmented by China’s coast guard and maritime militia with enough ships combined to almost double the PLAN’s total strength.
To compound matters for the the Biden administration, Beijing just announced an increase of 6.8 percent in defence spending.