In the early 1990s, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) embarked on an extensive program of military modernization, aiming ultimately to drastically reduce—if not eliminate—U.S. influence in the western Pacific and emerge a global power. To achieve this objective, the PRC must have credible naval capability. Since the mid-1990s, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has received ever-increasing resources. By the end of 2010, significant progress had been made in converting the PLAN from a coastal fleet into an increasingly modern force, potentially capable of denying access to the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific.
Some U.S. observers contend that the true purpose of the PRC’s naval modernization is to “coerce or intimidate” countries allied to the United States, specifically Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.1 The Department of Defense believes the PLA is developing diverse sea, undersea, space, and information-warfare systems to create overlapping, multilayered offensive capabilities that extend from the PRC’s coast to the western Pacific.2