The increasingly belligerent tone of rhetoric from Beijing and Washington since President Donald Trump’s inauguration shows no sign of improving the security situation in the Asia–Pacific.
Not only has the US attitude changed, but it is remarkable that China has, for the first time, not simply capitulated but reacted strongly – almost to the extent of calling them out.
The language used by the Chinese Communist Party’s media is confident and strident. However, Beijing is not simply adopting this tone because of its economic strength, but because it now has a military capable of delivering radical change in the region.
Indeed, while discussion over the future performance of the Chinese economy is clouded by problems such as a smaller profit-to-output margins and a massive debt overhang, China’s military future is clearer. As a study by US Naval War College Professor of Strategy Andrew Erickson points out, there is more certainty over the country’s military capabilities.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy) – or PLA(N) – is moving towards an ambition of 500 warships, including aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, amphibious ships and a burgeoning frigate and destroyer force.
Just in the past three weeks a new destroyer and new corvette have been launched and discussion over new carrier-based aircraft has been increasing. The growth in the PLA(N) force structure has been rapid: indeed it is hard to recall growth at a similar pace in any navy across history.
Against this, the US Navy – still the world’s most powerful naval force – has an aspiration of returning to a force design of around 350 units. (end of excerpt)
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