Even so, the priority is still likely to be more ships, the main reason being China’s own expansion.
Over the past two decades the main focus of China’s military has been to increase its capability, even at the expense of numbers, with the aim of securing political and economic interests in Southeast Asia and the West Pacific. There have been deployments in the Indian Ocean right through to the Arabian sea, and Chinese warships have cooperated with Western states in anti-piracy operations close to Yemen and Somalia, but there is little evidence of an ambition for a global navy.
For the Chinese, their own region is crucial and since the Russian Pacific Fleet is little more than a shadow of its former Soviet self, it is focusing on the United States, especially the US navy with its aircraft carrier battle groups. In turn, the United States is insistent on remaining a global power and it is here that the crunch is coming. Russia is not a serious threat in European waters and the Atlantic, so China is the opponent of concern.
Meanwhile, with China now fielding what it considers to be a more efficient military, the question is whether expansion will follow. There are indications that this is already happening, primarily with the navy.
China didn’t have a carrier until 2012 when the Liaoning was first deployed, but this was a heavily modified Soviet-era ship bought cheaply from Ukraine. The change came with the first indigenous carrier, the Shandong, which entered service in December. Another is under construction and yet another may be started in 2021, leading eventually to a fleet of up to six carriers.Print