In this decade, the United States Navy may be displaced as the most formidable maritime presence in the Pacific Ocean. China is determined to challenge America’s ability to project military power forward into the Western Pacific.
It seeks to undermine the U.S. capability of standing with its allies and deterring China from using military force to coerce small nations into making concessions on their sovereignty and the enforcement of binding treaty commitments.
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Denying Beijing’s quest to become the region’s dominant land and sea power will require more than traditional naval strength. A comprehensive strategy that understands the unfolding fourth industrial revolution and the Chinese government’s problematic activities will be necessary to deny China’s bid for maritime primacy.1
The PLA Navy Challenge
China’s emerging blue-water navy, backed by comprehensive national and maritime power, is “tipping the balance in the Pacific.” In the span of 35 years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been transformed from a coastal defense force into a serious peer competitor for the U.S. Navy and its allies in the Western Pacific.
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The balance of naval power is particularly favorable to China in its near seas where shore-based missiles and aircraft can support the s fleet. Together, China’s shore-based weapon systems and its fleet of small combatants are likely now sufficient to defend China’s near seas, which frees up the PLA Navy’s growing inventory of large vessels for power projection.
While the U.S. still fields more large combatants than the PLAN, the pace of China’s large combatant shipbuilding is accelerating. China is continuing to expand and modernize its shipyards so that they can build more large combatants simultaneously.
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