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Flash point: China's growing fleet

Sep. 30, 2013 - 07:43AM   |  
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Flash points

Five areas where the fleet could be in trouble:
China: A rising adversary
Budget cuts: Beltway battles do damage
Fleet size: Running the numbers
Industry: Can the yards do the job?
Risk aversion: Are leaders encouraged to play it too safe?
Have your say: We’ve asked the experts, now have your say — is the fleet getting weaker? Send your thoughts to
and they could appear in an upcoming issue.


Why it’s hurting the Navy: China is rapidly building a fleet capable of protecting the shipping and oil tankers that fuel its economic rise. It is constructing nuclear-powered attack submarines and experimenting with carrier-based naval aviation. The Asia-Pacific region is bracing itself for the arrival of a potent Chinese navy and the possibility that its many territorial disputes could escalate — and that the U.S. fleet could lose influence.

Key quote: “China is modernizing its fleet with the avowed intent of denying the western Pacific to American naval forces and — as Beijing’s aircraft carrier program demonstrates — projecting power into the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden,” writes Seth Cropsey, who believes this puts the powers in “a state of strategic competition.”

Counterpoint: China’s emerging shipbuilding industry is still unable to build the high-end warships and subs capable of threatening America’s fleet. China imports its iron ore and oil needed for its industry, and those resources travel highly vulnerable sea lanes that are under the uncontested control of the U.S. Navy.

Key quote: “I don’t have this mindless fear of China,” said retired Adm. John Harvey, who doesn’t see a confrontation as inevitable. “They have a lot of issues. They import just about every bit of oil they use. Now just think of this: You put two [U.S.] submarines outside of the Strait of Hormuz and two U.S. submarines outside the Strait of Malacca. And then you just surface them one day at the same time, long enough for the Chinese to know we’re there,” he said with a chuckle. “They can’t stop us.”

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