By Maryam Khormaee

Power balance in the Pacific: An analysis of naval race between U.S. and China

May 23, 2019

TEHRAN - The United States Navy ships have sailed through Taiwan Strait seven times since July 2018. The most recent time they passed through this narrow, yet strategic strait was in April.

Clearly, U.S. navy ships have increased their movement in this area compared to last years, however, U.S. Navy has never sent an aircraft career through the strait in past 11 years. taking this much caution reveals that Washington might want to prove its claims that it has the right to sail through international waters, but it would not go as far as provoking China.

China rules over three seas, South China Sea, East China Sea, and the Yellow Sea and despite occasional troubles made by U.S. and recently by United Kingdom, no one really means to cause a serious problem.

Over the last two decades, China has created one of the strongest navies in the world, equipped with most modern missiles in order to rule the waves in the Pacific Sea.

In fact, developing the Navy has been among the top priorities of Chines President Xi Jinping, so that China’s armed force turn into the strongest power in the region.

Therefore, it is no surprise that U.S. has not dared to send an aircraft carrier to Taiwan Strait over the last 11 years. According to U.S. Congress Independent Commission, in any war that break out by U.S. threatening China’s sovereignty over Taiwan, U.S. will definitely lose.  

China military budget: new ambitions for racing in distant waters
As China gains confidence that it can dominate its near seas, it intends to challenge the dominance of the U.S. Navy in distant waters, too, in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
Since 2014, China has launched more navy ships, submarines, support ships and amphibious warfare ships than the entire number of United Kingdom’s Royal Navy which is among the greatest, most ancient fleets in the world.

Between 2015 and 2017, China launched almost 400,000 tons of naval vessels, about twice the output of U.S. shipyards in that period.

According to navy experts, China has now about 400 warships and by 2030, the Chinese navy could have more than 530 warships and submarines.

Xi Jinping has also increased the country’s military budget.

Between 2015 and 2021, total military outlays are projected to jump 55 percent from $167.9 billion to $260.8 billion, Over the same period, the navy’s share of the budget has rose significantly to $57.1 billion.

In its 2015 White Paper on defense, China said its navy would gradually shift its focus from defending its offshore waters to operations in the open seas.

China flaunting cutting-edge aircraft carriers

Liaoning, the first Chinese aircraft carrier, went into operation in 1395. China bought the flat top 60,000-tonne Liaoning from Ukraine and set out to launch it by 2012.

Shandong, China’s second aircraft carrier is currently in sea trials and will soon go into operation. It is going to be stationed near South China sea where is also the center of conflict between Beijing, Washington and neighboring countries in the region.

Shandong is particularly important because it was totally built domestically and is going to go on exhibition in October 2019, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

After Shandong, a type 001A aircraft carrier, goes into operation, China Navy will rank second in the world in terms of the number of aircraft carriers, matching the size of U.K. Navy.
However, these two fleets can only carry up to 25 jet fighters, which is half the number of fighters in U.S. aircraft carriers.

But the highlight of the news is how China is getting ready to build its third aircraft carrier, based on domestic technology. According to International Institute for Strategic Studies, this ship is being built in Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai. This would be China’s biggest aircraft carrier that is capable of launching all types of offensives.

This type 002 aircraft carrier is expected to be significantly larger than France's Charles de Gaulle 42,500 tons aircraft carriers but smaller than U.S. 100,000 tons carriers.

It is also believed that the carrier will include a catapult aircraft launch system, but it is not disclosed whether it has a nuclear system or not.

According to the US Department of Defense, the construction of the new Chinese aircraft carrier will end by 2022.

The carriers equipped with catapult system are able to lunch heavier aircrafts, so China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will have a navy fleet that is capable of carrying a vast range of fighters and aircrafts.

However, for obtaining its goal to conquer the international waters, PLA will need at least five to six aircraft carriers, so that each of the navy fleets have at least two aircraft carriers. It means that if one aircraft carrier is under repair, the other one can work.

Finally, PLA still has a long road ahead to achieve the same level of tactic as U.S. this majorly stems from their few number of naval exercises. U.S. navy men’s practical abilities are way above the Chinese. However, it seems that China Navy is aware of this weakness and is trying to overcome it.