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China’s Massive Military Modernization Program

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning arrives in Hong Kong waters on July 7, 2017.

China’s massive military modernization program within the last 20 years may be matched to some large degree by the parallel increase in its state-owned military-industrial base, and that trend is set to keep as China continues it efforts to produce its forces to challenge U.S. military primacy inside western Pacific.

Despite accusations that quite a few the technology has been acquired through espionage or outright intellectual property theft, there isn’t any question that China’s military might has had a large leap in capabilities since turn from the century mainly because it has transformed itself into a monetary powerhouse.

This buildup is most evident at sea, where the ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, are likely to be encountered by the navies of China’s neighbors at sea in greater numbers at longer and longer distances from China’s coastline. They have also been appearing frequently at or nearby the disputed reefs and features inside the South China Sea, which China has reclaimed and changed into military outposts. The country has regularly challenged U.S. military ships in the area and harassed those from the rival claimants of the region.

Most in the PLAN’s ships are built by two state-owned shipbuilding behemoths, the China State Shipbuilding Corporation and the China Shipbuilding Industry Company. Together both companies have primarily been in charge of the Chinese naval buildup, while using London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies noting earlier this year that China “has launched more submarines, warships, principal amphibious vessels and auxiliaries as opposed to final number of ships currently serving inside the navies of Germany, India, Spain, Taiwan and also the United Kingdom” since 2014.

The think tank further noted that using a period within the 1990s and early 2000s when China experimented with small classes of incrementally improved designs, it’s got lately chose designs and shifted its priorities toward putting ships within the water at a rapid clip, in what continues to be likened to “dropping dumplings into soup.”

The results happen to be impressive to determine, with almost 50 Type 056 corvettes and most 20 Type 054 frigates commissioned within the last decade.

The shipbuilding program is a bit more impressive when larger ships are factored in, with eight Type 052D destroyers in service and another 11 in a variety of stages of construction or sea trials, using a further six in the new Type 055 cruisers fitting out or becoming built. Both courses are modern ships fitted with advanced phased-array radars and vertical launch systems competent at launching a number of anti-ship, anti-aircraft or land-attack missiles.

An aircraft carrier program is additionally ongoing, using a locally built ship in line with the former Soviet Admiral Kuznetsov-class vessel being fitted out, as the first a new class of more capable aircraft carrier is assumed to get undergoing module construction in Shanghai.


China’s aviation industry can also be making strides in increasing its capabilities. It has moved far from its beginnings manufacturing licensed and unlicensed copies of Soviet aircraft throughout the Cold War. The backbone in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force could be the Chengdu J-10 and also the Shenyang J-11/15/16 derivatives of the Russian Sukhoi Flanker family, although latter are extensively fitted with local avionics, weapon systems and engines.

The industry in addition has ramped up output of support aircraft, with the Y-9 turboprop and Y-20 jet airlifters in serial production. The former can be built for special missions like airborne early warning, anti-submarine and intelligence gathering fitted with locally developed mission systems.

However, a nearby industry is constantly on the have trouble with critical technologies despite a sustained effort at bridging this gap. This is most notable inside the field of aircraft engines, as China remains seemingly not able to produce jet engines to a standard it deems satisfactory; the nation still relies, to some extent, on imported Russian engines. This is exemplified through the single-engine J-10 interceptor, J-15 carrier-borne fighter and Y-20, all still operating with imported power plants despite Chinese equivalents already in service or in development.

This can be true from the Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, which is slowly entering service, although recent evidence suggests some J-20 prototypes are undergoing flight tests powered by indigenous engines with low-observable features.

That Chinese defense companies, like universities and research institutes that conduct defense-related research and development, are entirely state-owned entities has not stopped them from pursuing private ventures to the export market. In recent years, Chinese companies have pushed hard for arms exports, with all the country’s share of the global arms market increasing in recent times.

However, the export successes have mostly been attached to developing nations, who have been attracted with the low cost point and the few political strings mounted on sales of Chinese weapon systems, compared to Western counterparts. Attempts to move into more prestigious markets has thus far proved unsuccessful, except in instances where buyers are unable to access Western systems for example Saudi Arabia turning to Chinese armed drones because of since-relaxed American restrictions on the export for these systems.

One of the main stumbling blocks has become a negative perception for the quality of Chinese-made arms, a reputation partly fueled by China refusing to release its top-of-the line systems for export, having a notable example being the Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter, which has become marketed overseas in spite of the Chinese military showing little interest.

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