Dramatic development of Chinese Navy
Just 50 years ago China was a developing nation. Now China is challenging America economically and may be even militarily.
CJ: Chitranjan Sawant Sat, Apr 24, 2010 17:13:21 IST
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ONCE UPON a time the British educators taught every school-going child “Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves; Britons were never slaves” and we all held the British rulers in India in awe. The military scenario of the world, however, underwent a sea change after the Second World War.
The Sun set on the British Empire as had never happened before in the previous centuries. The United States of America became the dominant sea power and its warships patrolled the Pacific unhindered. The yellow race of China held the whites of America in awe. China was embroiled in its own civil war and the People’s Liberation Army that emerged victorious under the leadership of Chairman Mao Dzdong was basically a land force.
GLOBAL IMPACT OF CHINA
A short statured man named Deng Hsiao-ping who had been sidelined by the giant among men, Mao Dzdong finally emerged from the wings and occupied the centre stage. He changed the economic map of China by his pragmatic philosophy of life, society and economy. He was a middle roader in political philosophy and did not toe the political line of Marx or Mao’s Thought.
He advocated the theory that a cat is a cat as long as it catches mice and how does it matter if it is black and white. Thus the Chinese people got their own version of communism where owning a house or an automobile was not a taboo. Private farming and individual owned factories brought wealth to the individual owners and boosted the national economy beyond recognition. The general rule is that whatever goes up is bound to come down. The Chinese economy was an exception. The ten per cent growth made the world sit up and take stock of the situation.
Napoleon and his saying were recalled all over Europe. He had predicted : China is a sleeping giant. When it wakes up the world will be sorry , or said words to that effect.
The booming economy made China take stock of the global military situation. Again Mao’s maxim was recalled “Power comes out of the barrel of a gun. It is the party that controls the gun”. So the Chinese bought big guns from wherever they could. They manufactured big guns too.
China made more Kalashnikovs than what the inventor in Russia could have ever imagined. Modern fighter jets and war vessels were either bought off the shelf or manufactured in China. The soldiers, sailors, airmen and arms factory workers were encouraged by citing the example of the Chinese forebears who made the Great China Wall, the only man-made object seen from outer space. Mobilisation of Man power is an art and the Chinese leaders, both civil and military, are consummate artists.
The PLA had a good land army and its modernisation was undertaken. The PLA Air Force was given fast and hard hitting fighter jets and the pilots were trained meticulously. The PLA Navy was the Achilles heel and the traditional weakness had to be rectified. Once a dowager Empress withdrew a huge sum from her own treasury to build a strong navy to fight against the oppressive British intruders but built a ship like palace in a big lake where she spent her summers playing Ma-jong.
The rag-tag Chinese Navy was no match to the professional British Navy and there are no prizes for announcing the result of the naval engagements. Now the Chinese leadership is determined not to let history repeat itself.
The Chinese nation was encouraged to have a new mindset-Rule China, China rule the waves. The youth was given incentive to join the Navy and see the world. So world class war ships were purchased to keep the Red Star flagfly on the high seas. Naturally the initial stage saw a coast-hugging Navy but no one was disheartened.
Efforts, patience and perseverance paid rich dividends. The booming Chinese economy did not let the policy planners fall short of cash to buy the latest armaments. The site was fixed on the underwater warfare to scare the potential enemy away from the Chinese territorial waters. With the growth of a coast-hugging Navy into a blue water Navy going into deep oceans, the Chinese admirals developed self-confidence. They ventured up to the Middle-East with the purpose of defending their economic interests and merchant ships laden with the Chinese goods.
FAR SEA DEFENCE
Leaving the South China Sea and venturing in to the Pacific Ocean required new strategy. The new name of the game was FAR SEA DEFENCE. After all China was in the process of emerging as a world economic power. Its goods were marketed all over the world. The merchant ships had to be protected by the Chinese Navy across the Malacca Straits right up to the Gulf of Aden.
An extended Economic Zone in the Pacific Ocean brought China and the United States of America face to face on high seas where situation could develop into an explosive one and anything could happen. China let it be known to the world that it would brook no interference by another sea power in the South China Sea, come what may.
The most concerned nation following the development of the Chinese Navy is America. It is not alarmed, though. Nevertheless, the American admirals commanding fleets of the US Navy have taken note of the dramatic development of the Chinese Navy.
The Americans had been maintaining their superiority so far all over the high seas and oceans and they had no plans to play a second fiddle. Admiral Robert Willard, leader of the US Pacific Command testified before the Congressional Committee on Defence and said “the recent Chinese Navy developments are pretty dramatic”.
The higher echelons of command have let it be known to the world that the Chinese Navy intends to display an aircraft carrier group in not too distant future. The authorities in Beijing have made enquiries in Moscow about buying Navy fighter jets for it proposed aircraft carrier. By the way, the Chinese Navy does not have even one at present whereas the US Navy has 13 of them.
The Chinese modernisation plan of its Navy and building a sophisticated submarine fleet will curb the freedom of action of the US Navy in the Pacific Ocean. The Yalong Bay in the South of the Hainan boasts of an underground submarine base. The Chinese Navy is proud of it and looks upon its submarine fleet as the Defender of the Nation as well as the dissipater of the enemy fleet.
It is understood that the Chinese Navy has 60 plus submarines poised to aim, shoot and kill a man of war of an enemy country. Generally speaking, the military strategists were of the opinion that China was 20 years behind America in armaments, guns, fighter jets and war ships. However, it is the considered opinion of the up-to-date strategists and planners that China is fast catching up. The warning bell has already rung and it is for the US Navy to take note of the growing prowess of the Chinese Navy.
Taking stock of the battle ships of the two powers who are likely to be adversaries in future, one finds that America has 286 of them whereas China has 260 vessels of which 75 are most modern. One should not forget the strength of a nation’s war fleet is built around an aircraft carrier group where America rules the roost but China draws a blank. America has 3700 naval aircraft but China is still looking around to buy some.
Let us take a look at the budgeted military spending of the two countries. The Chinese military budget for 2010 is 78 billion dollars of which a little over one-third would be earmarked for the Navy, now a privileged service. The expenditure may go up to105 to 110 billion dollars. On the other hand the military budget of USA is 548.9 billion dollars. America indeed is far ahead. The quality of its weapon system is much superior to the Chinese armaments.
USA provides a defence umbrella to many countries of South Asia and South-East Asia. They are a little scared of the growing strength of the Chinese Navy. There is an urge to America by the free Asian nations to maintain its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and keep the war vessels flying the Red Star flags under surveillance and military check.