Last year was a monumental year for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), with no fewer than 23 modern surface warships launched. That figure included nine destroyers (two Type 055s and seven Type 052Ds), twelve Type 056 corvettes, one Type 075 landing helicopter dock, and one Type 071 landing platform dock.
2020, despite the twin challenges of a trade war with the USA and the impact of COVID-19, will be a stellar year for China’s navy as well, with a number of those previously launched ships entering formal service and yet more under construction.
But how much more powerful can the PLAN grow? A great deal of effort is put into predicting the future size and composition of the Chinese navy, but a straight extrapolation of what is going on today is insufficient. Indeed, Chinese shipyards need to build commercial vessels as well as naval ones in order to gain revenue.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that building new warships will be China’s only priority out till 2049, especially as national debt rises.