China's maritime strategy relies heavily on submarines to patrol the littorals, blockade the Taiwan Strait, and stalk aircraft carriers. The U.S. Navy should not underestimate China's ability to build a capable submarine force to challenge a superior maritime foe.
While the U.S. military remains focused on the Middle East and Central Asia, China continues its rapid military modernization. Perhaps the most significant development for the U.S. Navy is China's extensive efforts to upgrade its submarine force. In addition to signing a contract with Russia for eight new Kilo -class diesel submarines last May, China continues to field its new indigenous Song class. The appearance of its new nuclear attack submarine (SSN) is imminent. Finally, Beijing is upgrading the submarine force's weaponry, recruitment, training, and doctrine—all of which suggest that submarines will form the backbone of China's gradual strategic reorientation toward maritime priorities. As one Chinese strategist recently wrote: "Submarines are the maritime weapons posing the greatest threat to an aircraft carrier formation. Submarines are also our Navy's core force." 1 Retired Navy Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, a close observer of the Chinese Navy, similarly contends that submarines "are an essential ingredient in the ... maritime strategy of China," and calls for focused research on China's submarine force. 2