The scale and speed of China’s naval construction bear only one conclusion: Beijing is seeking to erode U.S. naval supremacy. This judgment requires no specialized knowledge of China or access to top secret intelligence. One need only look at the platforms the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is building and the pace at which it is building them.
But to fully understand the nature of the China maritime challenge, one must dig deeper—into the ideas guiding China’s naval development. This is far more difficult. The Chinese military is extremely cautious about revealing its true intentions. It produces lots of media content, but most of it is fluff. Analysts who spend their days sifting through Chinese sources failed to anticipate Beijing’s decision to build three enormous military facilities in the heart of the South China Sea. One day, China just began dredging sand and coral.
1. Shen Jinlong, “Thoroughly Implement the Spirit of the 19th Party Congress, Plan and Promote Transformational Construction for the Navy in the New Era,” People’s Navy, 13 December 2017, 1−2. Shen’s December 2017 speech was given to an internal audience of PLAN admirals and published in People’s Navy, a print newspaper not readily available outside the Chinese navy. Therefore, it is a far more candid expression of PLAN intentions than speeches and articles disseminated for wider readership.
2. PLAN Party Committee, “Strive to Comprehensively Build the PLAN into a World-class Navy,” Qiushi, 31 April 2018, www.qstheory.cn/dukan/qs/2018-05/31/c_1122897922.htm.
3. Zhu Ning and Li Yibao, “The Sea Is Vast and the Heavens Are High for Galloping—The Gulf of Aden’s Unique Meteorology and Sea Conditions Are Good Conditions for Training,” People’s Navy, 13 March 2010, 2.
4. China’s Military Strategy, The State Council Information Office of the PRC, May 2015.
5. Yu Wenbing, “Taking Advantage of the Situation to Build a First-Rate Command Academy,” People’s Navy, 13 July 2018, 3.
6. Li Qihu, “Do Not Forget Your Original Spirit, Re-Create Glory: Sonar Technology Boosts the Dream of Becoming a Maritime Power,” Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences no. 3 (2019): 258.
7. Liu Huaqing, Liu Huaqing Memoirs (Beijing: PLA, 2004), 438.
8. Li Jixiang, “Finding a Position from Which to Exert Effects in the Context of the Navy’s Transformative Construction,” People’s Navy, 19 December 2017, 3.
9. Andrew Scobell, David Lai, and Roy Kamphausen, eds., Chinese Lessons from Other Peoples’ Wars (November 2011), https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB1090.pdf.
10. Liu Yijian, “China’s Future Naval Construction and Naval Strategy,” Strategy and Management no. 5 (1999): 97.
11. Li Xuanliang and Wu Dengfeng, “Xi Jinping Attends a Fleet Review in the South China Sea and Delivers Important Speech,” Xinhua, 12 April 2018, www.xinhuanet.com/mil/2018-04/12/c_129849403.htm.
12. Zhao Xin, “Strengthen Work on the ‘Four Antis,’ Build a Defensive Line in the Secret Struggle,” People’s Navy, 3 July 2017, 3.
13. Zuo Dengyuan and Gong Jia, “Modern Naval Combat Is Becoming Intelligent,” People’s Navy, 17 August 2018, 4.
14. Qian Dong, Zhao Jiang, Yang Yun, “Development Trend of Military UUVs (Part 2): A Review of U.S. Military Unmanned System Development Plan,”Journal of Unmanned Systems no. 2 (2017).
15. Zhao Ming, “Taking the Express Train of Military Intelligent Development,” PLA Daily, 14 November 2017, 7, www.81.cn/jfjbmap/content/2017-11/14/content_191788.htm.
16. Excerpts from Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Holistic National Security Concept (Beijing: Central Document Press, 2018), 218–19.