The People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) development is best understood as proceeding on two separate but related tracks, or vectors. The first is its primary wartime mission, the defense of China proper and its sovereign territory. In this mission the PLAN is a major, but not the only, player in what would be a joint campaign (the Chinese air force and Second Artillery Corps also play leading roles) to defeat an approaching naval force bent on attacking China or intervening on behalf of Taiwan. Doctrinally, the PLA considers this contingency as “offshore active defense.”1 It is more popularly known in the West by its U.S.-coined term, “anti-access and area-denial.”
The second vector revolves around a variety of missions that the PLAN performs during peacetime. The most recent PLA defense white paper (2008) characterizes this mission as “Military Operations Other Than War.”2 This is new for the PLAN. It is a direct result of China’s expanding global economic interests, which have created global political and security interests.