China to have ‘world’s largest navy’ by 2020, says report

28 July 2016

Based on the number and variety of warships that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is likely to have in commission by the year 2020, a new report says that China will have not only the largest but also the second-most capable blue-water navy in the world within the next four years……

Original post


Future Superpower CMP

As concerns the Chinese-US military balance, the purely naval component is more important than the aggregate one, since the likeliest clash will be over some Pacific island or other.

Calculating separate CMPS for land and sea is unrealistic. However, one can make reasonable estimates of the share of national CMP that is land based vs naval based. In the US, for instance, I would estimate that the Navy and Marines (sea), and the Army and Air Force (land), each account for about half of its CMP. In the USSR, this split was more like 25%:75%. China during the Cold War was even more exclusively land-based, not possessing a blue water fleet at all. However, this is now changing fast. The Army is getting downsized, while as early as 2020 the PLAN will begin to resemble a smaller version of the USN.

Naval Power

Assuming that:

  • The Chinese naval share of CMP grows steadily from about 30% in 2010 to 50% by 2050.
  • The US naval share of CMP grows from 55% in 2010 and 2020, to 60% by 2020 and thereafter.
  • Chinese military spending increases by 10% during the rest of the 2010s (as before), by 7% in the 2020s, by 5% in the 2030s, and by 3% in the 2040s.
  • US military spending remains constant until 2020, then resumes growing at 3% a year.
  • China will move from a 10 year technological lag in 2010 to a 5 year technological lag by 2020, and remain there until 2050 (i.e. will not become technologically leading edge).

Here is what the US/China naval comparison will look like in the years ahead under these non too demanding assumptions, which involve China continuing to converge rapidly with developed world living standards (like South Korea with a lag period of 20 years) and maintaining military spending at about ~2-2.5% of GDP, while the US grows at around 3% and keeps military spending at around 3% of GDP.


Under these conditions, China will overtake the US in overall military terms in land military power during the early 2020s, in overall military power in the early 2030s, and in naval military power by the early 2040s.

I view that as being historically plausible. Germany committed to major naval buildup at 1888, when its total GDP was still considerably smaller than Britain’s. Twenty five years later, the Imperial German Navy had emerged from obscurity to become half the strength of the Royal Navy. But Germany also had to maintain an Army capable of fighting a two front war, and its GDP never far outpaced Britain’s because their total populations were so close (65 million to 47 million in 1913). In contrast, China has a relatively secure rear with Russia, which it is slowly overshadowing in land military power anyway; its GDP is already bigger than the US in purchasing power parity adjusted terms; and its population is more than four times as large as America’s. Should it merely converge to Korea’s level of GDP per capita relative to the US, its aggregate economic size will be three time greater than America’s.

As such, China’s naval ascendancy by the mid-21st century is entirely plausible.

George Friedman of Stratfor claims that carrier operations are so complex that only Americans can really understand them (I am not even simplying his arguments all that much), but he also claims that China will break apart in the 2020s and Poland and Mexico will be superpowers this century, so take his forecasts with a grain of salt.

Comprehensive Military Power

In global terms, there will be four military powers, with Russia and a rising India coming in behind the American and Chinese behemoths.



The Rapid Expansion of China’s Navy in Five Charts

Here are five graphics that illustrate some its other key findings:

1) China’s coast guard and maritime law enforcement fleet is now bigger than those of Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines combined. The coast guard will add 50 ships to its fleet between 2012 and 2015, increasing its overall force by 25 percent.

BN-HV118_navy_c_NS_20150410080553.pngU.S. OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE

2) China launched more naval ships than any other country in 2013 and 2014, and is expected to continue this trend through 2015-16.

BN-HV114_navy_f_NS_20150410075602.pngU.S. OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE

3) The range of Chinese naval surface-to-air and anti-ship cruise missiles is increasing. China’s newest class of destroyer, the LUYANG III, is fitted with the new YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile which Andrew Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College says in a blog post “could pose unprecedented challenges to the air defenses of U.S. and allied ships.”

BN-HV113_navy_m_NS_20150410075227U.S. OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCEBN-HV115_navy_m_NS_20150410080103U.S. OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE

4) China’s submarine force currently consists of five nuclear attack submarines, four nuclear ballistic missile submarines and 57 diesel attack submarines. By 2020, that force will likely grow to more than 70 submarines.

BN-HV117_navy_s_NS_20150410080309U.S. OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE

5) According to the report, China’s navy will soon assume a central role in the country’s nuclear deterrence, launching ballistic missile submarine patrols with intercontinental-range missiles. “As we look ahead to the coming decade, the introduction of aircraft carriers, ballistic missile submarines, and potentially a large-deck amphibious ship will fundamentally alter how the PLA(N) operates and is viewed by the world,”it says.

BN-HV111_navy_d_NS_20150410074616U.S. OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE

Original post Posted Apr 10, 2015 “The Rapid Expansion of China’s Navy in Five Charts” 


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