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.