Australia’s decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under a newly announced alliance with the United States and Britain has highlighted regional concerns over China’s growing maritime might in the Pacific.
Justifying ditching an earlier deal with France for conventional submarines, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was “not a change of mind, it’s a change of need”. AFP takes a look at how the military balance of power in the region stands.
Total battle force
In terms of number of ships — surface vessels and submarines — China has the largest navy in the world, according to the US Department of Defense.
At the end of 2020, the size of China’s navy — or its “battle force ships” — was approximately 360, compared to the United States’ 297, according to the US Office of Naval Intelligence.
It also projected that China’s navy will increase to 400 ships in 2025 and 425 in 2030.
Rate of expansion
Five of the United States’ 11 aircraft carriers are based in the Pacific.
But China has already started construction on its third aircraft carrier and is also building more destroyers.