British media: China fosters blue water navy

Zhang Tao

BEIJING, Feb. 28 (ChinaMil) -- The PLA Navy "has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, its first aircraft carrier sailing around Taiwan and some new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places", the Reuters reported on February 26, 2017.

The article, titled "Wary of Trump, China ramps up naval capabilities" , says that "Now, with US President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot-button issues, including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the US Navy. "

"It's opportunity in crisis. China fears Trump will turn on them eventually as he's so unpredictable and it's getting ready," said an Asian diplomat in Beijing when talking about the recent moves by the PLA Navy.

Beijing has never released statistics as to how much money is allocated to the PLA Navy, but the official national defense budget in 2016 was 954.35 billion yuan ($138.95 billion).

The article reported that the PLA Navy used to limit their operations to coastal areas, but it is rising rapidly according to China's ambitious military modernization program.

In 2016, nearly 20 vessels were commissioned, including missile destroyers, corvettes and guided missile frigates. Recently it commissioned a batch of new equipment, including the electronic reconnaissance ship that formally entered service in January this year.

But the PLA Navy still significantly lags the US, which operates 10 aircraft carriers to China’s one, the Soviet-era Liaoning.

"It's like a marathon and we're falling behind. We need to step on the gas," Xu Guangyu, a Chinese military expert, said.

Trump announced to increase the number of military vessels in the US Navy to 350. His assistants said as part of one of the "greatest military buildups in American history", the plan is to counter China's rise as a military power.

"We’ve known this is a 15-20 year project and every year they get closer to being a blue-water navy with global aspirations," said an official from the US government who asked for anonymity.

It is reported that the PLA Navy's recent mission included visiting Gulf countries. Last month a Chinese submarine docked at a port in Malaysia’s Sabah state, which lies on the South China Sea, only the second confirmed visit of a Chinese submarine to a foreign port. They also visited ports in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

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