China’s 350 Warships: Who Has The Largest Navy?
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The United States and Chin’s 350 Warships
Today, China’s 350 warships invoke a sense of dread worldwide. It was hardly conceivable fifty years ago that China would move from the margins of world affairs to the centre stage by the end of the twentieth century. Dr Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State in the Nixon – Ford Administration, saw it coming. He remarked during an interview a few years after leaving office that he would rather wish not to be around by the time China completed her industrial revolution. Fortuitously he is still alive, and the reality of his prediction is playing out in our presence.
The Pentagon asserted on Monday, September 1, 2020, that China now has the world’s largest fleet of warships numbering somewhere around the neighbourhood of 350 or so; had achieved parity, or even exceeded the United States in several military modernization areas. Beijing aims to double its nuclear missiles capabilities in the next ten years and has embarked on a seemingly ambitious reach for military bases around the globe. The Chinese Foreign Ministry was quick to declare the claims spurious. No one expected the Chinese government to applaud itself for such claims or even accept them as genuine.
The truth is that China, the sleeping giant, has come awake, and the world needs to adjust to the realities of a new internationalism. The world knew little about China during WW I and WW II, or even earlier. While the major powers in Europe scrambled for territories overseas in the nineteenth century, the United States of America wrapped itself with the Monroe Doctrine, contented with an enclave it carved for herself.
The Chinese, a very traditional people, were busy perfecting their cultural revolution for the past two centuries. But perhaps more revealing about their progress is the industrial revolution begun by Mao Zedong and later consummated by Deng Xiaoping and succeeding governments.
With the industrial revolution, innovations and attendant prosperity, China’s resounding success story has carved a niche that plunged it into the global stage at a time when the acquisition of colonies has become obsolete. As the world’s second economic power and its explosive population at 1.3 billion, expansionist dreams have become naturally instinctive.
In essence, the US is not just particularly concerned about China’s possession of 350 warships and submarines. The US gave its number like 293 or thereabout. It is the potential for expansion of the fleet to include more sophisticated and adaptable weapons systems over time that is the question. China has two Aircraft Carriers equipped with fixed-winged aircraft and helicopters.
In contrast, the US has about ten or more equipped with fixed-wing aviation in addition to helicopter carriers. It will take China at least another fifteen years to match that number if the US stops building more. Again China is not a new entrant into the community of sophisticated missiles technology paraders and certainly not unique to nuclear warheads development. Still, it will take her some years to catch up with advanced Mirved missile systems technology. Under the Soviet Union, Russia already had strategic parity with the US in the 1980s, verified by United Nations-brokered diplomatic agreements.
A New Global Arms Race?
The new development – China’s aggressive weapons systems production – may prod the US into expanding its missiles arsenal beyond specified limits in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), reached about three decades ago. Even then, parity in numbers does not necessarily mean parity in superiority in terms of procurement and delivery strategies. Besides, China still understandably lags behind the US and Russia, respectively, in underground silos-based and other second-strike capabilities from submarines and air-launched missile systems delivered by strategic bombers. China relies more on mobile launchers.
However, the predicament of the US in a war scenario is well understood. Pentagon war strategists are bothered in the main with an odd situation that could arise. There is the possibility that if the US has to fight on two or more fronts, assuming in the event of war with China, and the latter goes into an alliance with Russia and perhaps another nuclear power, a complicated situation is envisaged. It calls for caution.
The Possible Russian Connection
There are issues the US ought to understand as the underlying motive behind China’s actions. One is the reality that the US is the supreme power in a vast military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the most formidable military machine on earth. Any force that engages the US in war must face the truth that such an encounter will most likely escalate beyond the superpower’s initial scope of action.
The alliance will, of course, rally around their member. That means the other two major powers – Russia and China – in the event of war will need more warships than the US. And even if they start a conventional war, it won’t last longer than two months at the most before an accidental nuclear interjection occurs. Therefore what the world needs is not the accumulation of weapons but the adoption of international diplomacy to resolve crises between nations, if and when they arise.