The Chinese military unveiled a new class of destroyer Wednesday, advancing the rising Asian power’s naval ambitions.
The Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, independently produced at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, is a next generation vessel built to replace the smaller Type 052D destroyers, although China is still producing the latter, according to Chinese media reports.
The new 10,000-ton destroyer is similar in size but not necessarily capabilities as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.
China launches the 1st vessel of its new generation of destroyers in Shanghai! The 10,000-tonne vessel is domestically designed and produced pic.twitter.com/mUUTjBX2IW
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) June 28, 2017
China is expanding its Navy at an accelerated pace as part of an extensive military modernization program. China commissioned 18 ships, including destroyers, corvettes, guided-missile destroyers, into the People’s Liberation Army Navy in 2016, according to Chinese state media. The Chinese military is expected to have a naval force of around 270 ships, submarines, and logistics vessels by 2020.
The Chinese navy has two aircraft carriers, including an indigenous carrier unveiled earlier this year. The newest flattop is still being outfitted with equipment and undergoing testing.
China asserts that it needs as strong navy to defend its 9,000 miles of coastline, as well as its vast maritime claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Asia Pacific. China is rapidly expanding its military presence in the South China Sea through the construction of military outposts on artificial islands.
The U.S. has been highly critical of China’s attempts to alter the status quo through coercion and the application of force.
“Fake islands should not be believed by real people,” Admiral Harry Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, said Wednesday in a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Centre in Australia. “China is using its military and economic power to erode the rules-based international order,” he added.
He explained that the U.S. Navy will not allow “shared domains to be closed down unilaterally,” suggesting that the U.S. will continue to take steps to uphold freedom of navigation in the region.
“We’ll cooperate where we can, but remain ready to confront where we must,” Harris explained.
While China is rapidly producing ships at a much faster pace than the U.S., American capabilities far exceed those of the Chinese.
“Two gray ships riding on the sea go by. They’ve got a bunch of flags flying and a bunch of sailors up on deck. One of them couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against,” Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces, said in January of this year.
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