The Chinese Navy is already the largest in the world, with a fleet of more than 350 ships that includes a fast-growing armada of destroyers, carriers and submarines, a reality which continues to raise concerns with the Pentagon and Navy weapons developers.
By the end of this decade, China is expected to operate as many as 400 ships, according to the Pentagon’s 2020 China Military Power report which catalogs the pace and extent of China’s ambitious military modernization.
“China is the top ship-producing nation in the world by tonnage and is increasing its shipbuilding capacity and capability for all naval classes,” the report said.
While China’s growing fleet is already much larger than the U.S. Navy’s 293 ships, some Navy leaders and observers say pure numbers may not ultimately be the measure of superiority. The Pentagon report does make this point, yet with the clear caveat that China’s emerging fleet size is indeed concerning.
“There is certainly more to naval power than ship counts, total counts of the Chinese vessels, there's tonnage ... but I would also draw your attention to weapons systems and it's important to highlight the Chinese shipbuilding advantages in terms of its size of fleet,” Chad Sbragia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China, told reporters when addressing the report, according to a Pentagon transcript.