China will further strengthen its navy by both expanding its personnel and improving its vessels to safeguard the country's maritime rights and promote its maritime interests, said a retired PLA Navy admiral on Sunday on the sidelines of the fifth session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.
Liu Xiaojiang, former Navy political commissar and now deputy head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NPC, said that China will "certainly" build a larger navy roster, as he believes the navy will have a bigger role considering the need to defend its maritime rights and interests, the China News Service reported on Monday.
His comments came after Li Yanming, political commissar with the Navy's Armaments Department, said on Saturday that the development of navy equipment has accelerated, as the Navy has been equipped with quite a few new vessels.
Li described the addition of vessels as "putting dumplings into the pot."
China is now faced with many critical challenges, most of which come from the seas, Li Jie, a naval military expert, told the Global Times, citing the increasingly perplexing Taiwan question as an example. "As the pro-independence forces have become somewhat emboldened, we need to consider the possibility of interference from the US."
Li Jie said the new vessels coming into service include 7,000-ton missile cruise ships which mainly operate in the open seas, as well as 1,000-ton missile destroyers and corvettes, which are in charge of off-shore tasks including securing the convoys and base defense.
The navy will also incorporate some army combat forces, the NPC lawmaker said.
"North, East and South China seas fleets will all be strengthened, and the deployment of such fleets will be more agile to cope with more complicated situations," Xu Guangyu, a senior advisor to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.
The East China Sea will be the prime focus for the deployment of naval forces, as it is linked to the country's core interests including territorial sovereignty, while the South China Sea will also be stressed as the region is a key area for the country's strategic development projects, such as the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Li Jie estimated.
As reforms of the naval academies constitute part of the military reform, Li Jie expected that the development of special forces under the Navy such as marines will drive academies to cultivate talent with marine combat skills.
Xu said that in the naval academies, which he believes are already sufficient in number, new majors for marine corps and engineering technicians who will work for the newly equipped vessels will be added.