What's driving China's push to build up its naval power

A global China calls for a blue water navy and it has to prepare for possible conflict in an increasingly hostile relationship with the US. But China is not into world domination or being a global supercop.

What best represents China's military strength? The answer: its navy.

At the end of last year, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy had 360 battle ships, surpassing the United States Navy's 297 vessels. And that gap is expected to widen in the coming years by most estimates. To paraphrase former Czech president Vaclav Havel, China's naval build-up has happened so rapidly that the world has not had time to be astonished. In the 1974 Battle of the Paracel Islands between the naval forces of China and South Vietnam, the four Chinese warships combined were dwarfed in size by the largest ship of the South Vietnamese navy.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'What's driving China's push to build up its naval power'. Subscribe