China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities-Background and Issues for Congress Page: 2 of 105
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China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities
China since the early 1990s has been steadily building a modern and powerful navy. China's navy
in recent years has emerged as a formidable military force within China's near-seas region, and it
is conducting a growing number of operations in more-distant waters, including the broader
waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe. The question of how
the United States should respond to China's military modernization effort, including its naval
modernization effort, is a key issue in U.S. defense planning.
Observers of Chinese and U.S. military forces view China's improving naval capabilities as
posing a challenge in the Western Pacific to the U.S. Navy's ability to achieve and maintain
control of blue-water ocean areas in wartime-the first such challenge the U.S. Navy has faced
since the end of the Cold War. More broadly, these observers view China's naval capabilities as a
key element of a broader Chinese military challenge to the long-standing status of the United
States as the leading military power in the Western Pacific.
China's naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of platform and weapon acquisition
programs, including anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs),
submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and supporting C4ISR (command and control,
communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems. China's
naval modernization effort also includes improvements in maintenance and logistics, doctrine,
personnel quality, education and training, and exercises.
Observers believe China's naval modernization effort is oriented toward developing capabilities
for doing the following: addressing the situation with Taiwan militarily, if need be; asserting or
defending China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea; enforcing China's
view that it has the right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200-mile maritime exclusive
economic zone (EEZ); defending China's commercial sea lines of communication (SLOCs);
displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and asserting China's status as a leading regional
power and major world power. Consistent with these goals, observers believe China wants its
military to be capable of acting as an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force-a force that can
deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China's near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue,
or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. forces. Additional
missions for China's navy include conducting maritime security (including anti-piracy)
operations, evacuating Chinese nationals from foreign countries when necessary, and conducting
humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR) operations.
Potential oversight issues for Congress include the following:
" whether the U.S. Navy in coming years will be large enough and capable enough
to adequately counter improved Chinese maritime A2/AD forces while also
adequately performing other missions around the world;
" whether the Navy's plans for developing and procuring long-range carrier-based
aircraft and long-range ship- and aircraft-launched weapons are appropriate;
* whether the Navy can effectively counter Chinese ASBMs and submarines; and
* whether the Navy, in response to China's maritime A2/AD capabilities, should
shift over time to a more distributed fleet architecture.
Congressional Research Service
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O'Rourke, Ronald. China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities-Background and Issues for Congress, report, August 18, 2017; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1020816/m1/2/: accessed February 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.