It is high time to move on from the sterile debate over whether China can build an oceangoing navy. It has, therefore it can. Like past great powers on the make, China can go to sea swiftly given sufficient resources and resolve. Indeed, peering into history—as we do here in cursory fashion—makes it possible to approximate how long it takes a would-be sea power to construct a modern fleet. The historical record since the Age of Sail suggests that a determined aspirant can construct a serious regional force within about 15 years of resolving to do so. It can put a blue-water fleet to sea roughly 30 years after laying the first keels—again, providing it remains steadfast about the effort.
Hardly the First Time
History offers multiple examples of how a country can ascend speedily to world-class sea-power status. Why should China be any different?
By James R. Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara