An ongoing modernization effort has provided China with an increasingly sophisticated and proficient naval force, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) said in a new assessment (large pdf).
Notably, China has “developed the world’s only anti-ship ballistic missile,” which ONI said was “specifically designed to defeat U.S. carrier strike groups” in the event of military conflict over Taiwan.
“China’s modernization efforts have principally focused on preparing for a Taiwan conflict, with a large portion directed at developing capabilities to deter, delay, and if necessary degrade potential U.S. military intervention,” the ONI report said.
Although China has recently deployed naval vessels far from its shores to protect Chinese shipping from piracy, “it is important to note that none of these operations indicate a desire on the part of the PRC to develop a constant global presence,” ONI said. “Beijing’s ambition appears to remain focused on the East Asian region, with an ability to protect the PRC’s maritime interests in distant seas when required.”
See “The People’s Liberation Army Navy: A Modern Navy with Chinese Characteristics,” Office of Naval Intelligence, released November 2009 (17 MB PDF file).
The new ONI analysis was first reported by Tony Capaccio in “China’s New Missile May Create a ‘No-Go Zone’ for U.S. Fleet,” Bloomberg News, November 17, 2009.
A marked increase in Chinese submarine patrols last year was reported by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists in the FAS Strategic Security Blog.
The Congressional Research Service provided additional information in “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress” (pdf), updated October 21, 2009.