China wants to become east Asia's dominant power. And in order to do that, the country needs a navy that can balance out American and US-allied assets in the region.
China wants a force that is capable of operating for extended periods in the open ocean, away from the coasts or support bases. A "blue-water navy" would allow China to protect vital trade routes while also enabling Beijing to project force in areas far from China's coastline.
Beijing's naval development could be one of the biggest strategic challenges the US faces in coming decades. And the Chinese navy is already pretty formidable. The following graphic from the US Office of Naval Intelligence shows every surface ship in the Chinese Navy as of February 2015 (you can view a much larger version of the graphic here):
The largest ship in China's navy is currently the Liaoning aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet-built craft that's had an array of problems. The vessel is several decades old and of questionable quality — it suffered an unexpected power outage during sea trials in October of 2014.
But the Liaoning may just be a practice carrier for the Chinese Navy. China is using the low-cost vessel to master the operation of carrier battle groups before purchasing and developing more expensive and capable vessels.
There are reports that China is planning on developing three carrier battle groups, in a massive ramping-up of naval force projection.
The Luyang II 052C class guided missile destroyer is also noteworthy. These ships are designed to operate in open ocean away from China's coasts, allowing Beijing to press its territorial ambitions throughout the Pacific and the South China Sea.
Additionally, a ship model called the Jinan will feature a number of new-generation weapons, and is specially designed to protect any future Chinese aircraft carriers.
Troops gather on the deck of the Liaoning, China's single aircraft carrier.
"The guided missile destroyer Ji'nan (hull number 152), is equipped with multiple sets of home-made new-type weapons," China Military Online reports.
"It is able to attack surface warships and submarines independently or in coordination with other strength of the PLAN. The ship also possesses strong capabilities of conducting long-distance early-warning and detecting as well as regional air-defense operation."
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