China’s military modernisation is advancing rapidly, requiring stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific region to adapt with the changing realities.
China’s Defence minister Wei Fenghe made a speech on June 2 at the Shangri-La Dialogue forum in Singapore. Shangri-La Dialogue is one of the biggest track-one diplomacy security fora of Asia. Mr. Fenghe’s speech was monitored closely for three reasons. One, the Defence minister has not attended this forum since 2011. Two, his speech was a response to the statement made by Patrick Shanahan, the acting secretary of defence for the United States. Mr. Shanahan revealed details of the ‘new phase’ in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy. Third and most importantly, the speech came a month after the Chinese military report published by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
The DOD report cautioned the U.S. Congress about the rapid modernisation of the Chinese armed forces. The report claims that the Chinese leadership aims to achieve informatisation of the People’s Liberation Army by 2020 and modernisation by 2035, with the broader goal of developing the PLA into a world-class force by 2050. The report gives considerable attention to the advancement of the PLA Navy (PLAN). There has been an evolution in the approach of the PLAN from ‘off-shore water defence’ to ‘open sea protection’ due to its increased military capabilities. The report says that China’s second aircraft carrier, Type 001 A, would likely be commissioned by the end of this year. This would be followed by the induction of another carrier, Type 002, in a short span of time.
The Type 002 carrier is expected to be equipped with advanced launch capabilities in the form of an electromagnetic catapult. Currently, this technology is available only with the single aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy, the USS Gerald R. Ford. The report also states that the PLAN currently operates four nuclear-powered ballistic missile–carrying submarines (SSBNs) and six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), predicting that this number would increase in the near future. The DOD report further cautions the U.S. Congress to expect the establishment of more overseas PLA bases, like the one in Djibouti, in the Indo-Pacific region in the near future.
What does this mean for regional stakeholders..
This article was originally published in the Hindu thread. Click to read the full article