NEWPORT, R.I. — It’s no secret that China has embarked on a major modernization and expansion plan for its Navy, and its aggressive building program, coupled with the placing in service of more modern submarines, an aircraft carrier, destroyers with ever-sophisticated sensors and a large number of long-range surface-to-surface missiles, is altering politics and strategies throughout the Asian theater.
What is not so clear is what sort of fleet the Chinese are building toward, and how far their industrial capability can take them.
That was the theme last week at a two-day conference here to discuss China’s naval shipbuilding progress and challenges. Presenters at the event, sponsored by the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, were in general agreement on several major themes — that China’s Navy will continue to grow and field ever-more capable systems, and that it remains a work in progress.
“That’s a good way to put it,” Andrew Erickson, a leading expert at the college on the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) — or PLAN — and one of the event’s organizers, said shortly after the conference ended.
“A lot of activity is occurring, there’s a lot of effort, they’re making achievements, but in this complex and difficult field it takes a lot of achievement to be accrued before that translates to a major increase in actual capability,” Erickson said.