China as a Twenty-First Century Naval Power

"Theory, Practice, and Implications"

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Xi Jinping has made his ambitions for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) perfectly clear, there is no mystery what he wants, first, that China should become a "great maritime power" and secondly, that the PLA "become a world-class armed force by 2050." He wants this latter objective to be largely completed by 2035. China as a Twenty-First-Century Naval Power focuses on China's navy and how it is being transformed to satisfy the "world class" goal.

Beginning with an exploration of why China is seeking to become such a major maritime power, author Michael McDevitt first explores the strategic rationale behind Xi's two objectives. China's reliance on foreign trade and overseas interests such as China's Belt and Road strategy. In turn this has created concerns within the senior levels of China's military about the vulnerability of its overseas interests and maritime life-lines. is a major theme. McDevitt dubs this China's "sea lane anxiety" and traces how this has required the PLA Navy to evolve from a "near seas"-focused navy to one that has global reach; a "blue water navy." He details how quickly this transformation has taken place, thanks to a patient step-by-step approach and abundant funding. The more than 10 years of anti-piracy patrols in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean has acted as a learning curve accelerator to "blue water" status.

McDevitt then explores the PLA Navy's role in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. He provides a detailed assessment of what the PLAN will be expected to do if Beijing chooses to attack Taiwan potentially triggering combat with America's "first responders" in East Asia, especially the U.S. Seventh Fleet and U.S. Fifth Air Force.

He conducts a close exploration of how the PLA Navy fits into China's campaign plan aimed at keeping reinforcing U.S. forces at arm's length (what the Pentagon calls anti-access and area denial [A2/AD]) if war has broken out over Taiwan, or because of attacks on U.S. allies and friends that live in the shadow of China. McDevitt does not know how Xi defines "world class" but the evidence from the past 15 years of building a blue water force has already made the PLA Navy the second largest globally capable navy in the world. This book concludes with a forecast of what Xi's vision of a "world-class navy" might look like in the next fifteen years when the 2035 deadline is reached.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

Selected for the CNO's Professional Reading Program
“Within its maritime area of focus, China as a Twenty-First-Century Naval Power is packed with detailed insights and should be on the shelf of every warrior-scholar in the joint force.” —Joint Force Quarterly
“Michael McDevitt's book on China's spectacular twenty-first-century naval growth is both relevant and timely.... [He] has written a salutary assessment of China's naval potential from the U.S. Navy's viewpoint.” —Michigan War Studies Review
“Michael A. McDevitt, a retired US Navy Rear Admiral, has produced a remarkably detailed, and far-reaching, analysis of the transformation of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) from what was essentially a small, brown-water unit, into a very large, and well—equipped, blue water force…. A remarkably thorough, and penetrating study of what is now the world’s biggest naval force. This meticulously researched work gives insight into the structure, and capabilities of the PLAN. Its rise has been a remarkable phenomenon, and it is a force that is going to be the focus for much assessment and analysis in the years ahead.” —Asian Affairs
“As Western countries experience increasing tensions with China, multinational military exercises focus on countering Chinese influence, and the matter of Taiwan regains press attention, this book is a welcome addition to previous publications seeking to broaden our understanding of the competing interests in this vital region. It is an engaging and accessible analysis of the PLA Navy and how it may evolve with China’s increasing power and influence.” —East West Notes
“McDevitt’s style is fluent, pragmatic and technically precise, as one would expect from a professional mariner turned strategic analyst…. This is a cool, objective assessment of a fast-growing force.” —The Naval Review
“This book should be read immediately by naval officers, scientists, political thinkers and decision-makers in Germany too, in order to be able to make urgently necessary decisions on a reasonable basis.” —Deutsches Maritimes Kompetenz Netz
“This book provides a well written, comprehensive view of the PLA Navy and should be required reading for all those involved with Maritime matters and developments in the Indo-Pacific Region.” —Naval Historical Foundation
“China as a Twenty-First-Century Naval Power is an important book.” —Militaire Spectator
“China as a 21st Century Naval Power is a landmark stand-alone assessment of an undoubtedly powerful maritime force. It should be recommended reading for maritime practitioners, policy-makers and strategic realists.” —Australian Naval Institute
“Rear Admiral McDevitt has studied the Chinese navy from the decks of destroyers in the South China Sea to the corridors of leading think tanks around the world. His expertise is legendary, and this new book is a commanding analysis of the course China will steer over the coming decades in their voyage to become the leading global maritime power.” —Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), 16th Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and author of Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character
“As he explores the rationale for China’s unprecedented accretion of maritime power and quest for a ‘world-class’ navy, McDevitt provides perceptive insights into Beijing’s obsessive pursuit of sea-lane security, regional-hegemony and, eventually, global-dominance. The vivid future-scenarios, painted by this former practitioner of seapower, could prove prophetic, and deserve our closest attention.” —Adm. Arun Prakash (Ret.), former Indian Navy Chief and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff
“Admiral Michael McDevitt has written an important book about China as a world power. Few Americans possess his knowledge of maritime strategy and China. He has combined this knowledge with his background as a historian and a sea-going officer with more thirty years experience. China as a Twenty-First-Century Naval Power is a must read for military officers, China specialists, and historians.” —Captain Bernard D. Cole, USN (Ret.), Professor Emeritus, National War College, author of China’s Quest for Great Power: Ships, Oil, and Foreign Policy
“Rear Admiral Mike McDevitt delivers the definitive study on China’s ambitious quest for greatness at sea. Armed with decades of operational experience, he renders persuasive judgments about China’s nautical ascent. For those looking for an authoritative yet accessible appraisal of the Chinese navy, this is it.” —Toshi Yoshihara, senior fellow, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, co-author of Red Star over the Pacific: China’s Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy, 2nd ed.
“Admiral McDevitt has written the definitive book on China’s maritime ambitions and its ability to fulfill them. His years of careful research following a career of high-level Navy and Defense Department positions are blended into a carefully detailed and documented, yet practical and sensible examination of China’s security shift from land defense to control of the seas. The discussions of Taiwan and the South China Sea are especially informative and sobering. The implications are judicious and very clear – the United States must urgently and intelligently increase its own maritime and air capability.” —Dennis C. Blair, former Commander in Chief, US Pacific Command and former Director of National Intelligence
“In order to counter China’s willful and persistent challenges against the stabilizing PAX-AMERICANA global framework, an accurate and comprehensive understanding of China’s security and naval strategies is required. In this context, RADM Mike McDevitt’s superb book is a 'must-read' for naval/security specialists, as well as national leaders and thinkers.” —Yoji Koda, Former Commander in Chief, JMSDF Fleet
. . . the present work, which consolidates and updates the advances made in Chinese maritime-strategic studies, will serve well any professional within the field. It provides an incisive complement to Toshi Yoshihara and James Holmes's tour de force, Red Star over the Pacific (2010). McDevitt has delivered a work both scholarly and enduring, one that will provide a theoretical foothold for understanding China's naval development for years to come. — Naval War College

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