It was a noteworthy year for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). In April, it celebrated its 70th Anniversary in Qingdao, and in October, the navy was on display at the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. If one thing was clear about the PLAN in 2019, it was that despite economic growth slowing to its lowest level in nearly 30 years, the Chinese Communist Party continued to place a high priority on allocating resources for the PLAN, resulting in a substantial increase in size and capability. In 2019, China outpaced the United States, building 23 surface ships against 9 for the U.S. Navy. (The U.S. ships include one attack submarine.) In terms of tonnage, the ratio was 4 to 1, and China also built antiship missiles at a rate orders of magnitude higher than the United States. The strategic impact of PLAN growth in 2019 is all too apparent as China enters the “Decade of Concern” (2020–30) and increasingly contemplates the country’s rejuvenation and restoration.
Strike Groups with Chinese Characteristics
The People's Liberation Army Navy in 2019.
By Captain James E. Fanell, U.S. Navy (Retired)