The Big Story: The 70th PLA Naval Anniversary
The People’s Republic of China, in the last week, celebrated the 70th founding anniversary of the PLA Navy. The PLA Navy was formed on April 23rd, 1949 as a leading organ of the navy under East China Military Area Command. Seven decades after founding, PLAN has developed among the largest naval fleets in the world with both conventional and nuclear capabilities. The event was marked with a four-day celebration and a grand naval parade at Chinese port of Qingdao, Shandong province. 32 Chinese vessels and 39 warplanes participated in the parade. Highlights of the event were country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, first time public display of Type 055 guided missile destroyer class, the Nanchang, and Type 094, Jin class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine. However, what wasn’t on display was the Type 001A, China’s indigenous aircraft carrier, which is not yet battle ready.
More than 20 countries participated in the fleet review by sending their naval vessels, which includes Russia, Australia, Japan, India and others. More than 60 countries sent their naval delegations, of which, more than 30 featured a high level naval leader/officer. India had sent two ships, the destroyer class, INS Kolkata and tanker ship, INS Shakti, to participate in the fleet review. Japan had sent a destroyer class, JS Suzutsuki (DD 117), which is the first visit by any Japanese ship to China since 2011. The US, however, refused to send a warship, but it did mark its presence through low level naval delegation. This is unlike 2009, when the PLA Navy celebrated its 60th anniversary and the US had sent its missile guided destroyer the USS Fitzgerald.
China’s President Xi Jinping reviewed the international fleet during the naval parade. Xi urged maritime forces around the world to work together for promoting dialogue and maintaining peace at sea.
According to Xi, “Nations should use consultations to resolve matters, and should not easily resort to force or threats of force. Nations should consult on an equal basis, improve crisis management mechanisms, step up regional security cooperation and push for proper settlement of maritime disputes.”
Read Xi’s speech here.
The Economist Magazine inferred this naval celebration as China’s maritime ambitions becoming more evident. The display of muscle by the PLA Navy was intended towards near sea domination and the realist concept of balance of power in the neighbouring region, analysed the Economist.
Chinese press hit back at the western media for being critical of its naval display. According to the Chinese Military Online, PLAN vessels would not go to open sea or near the coast of a hostile country to punish it or bully it to sign a treaty. The opinion piece said that the strong Chinese navy would never follow the maritime imperial actions that some major navies have done before.
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