Navy on dual mis­sion of de­fense and peace

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

Ahigh point of the 90th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, which falls on Aug 1, should be the in­creas­ing might of the PLA Navy, which launched its first do­mes­ti­cally built de­stroyer in June and first “home­made” air­craft car­rier in April. The de­stroyer is ex­pected to have cut­ting-edge air de­fense, mis­sile de­fense, anti-ship and anti-sub­ma­rine mis­siles when it is com­mis­sioned for duty early next year, while the air­craft car­rier will lead com­bat and de­fense mis­sions as well as non-com­bat mis­sions such as anti-ter­ror­ism and anti-piracy op­er­a­tions.

The two large ves­sels are just a glimpse of how far China has come in its pur­suit of naval prow­ess. From a col­lec­tion of el­e­men­tary war­ships to a com­bi­na­tion of sub­marines, sur­face ves­sels, air­men, mari- nes and coastal de­fense troops, the PLA Navy now has mul­ti­ple ver­sa­tile forces that can en­gage in both con­ven­tional and nu­clear com­bats. Its ca­pa­bil­ity to safe­guard sov­er­eign and se­cu­rity in­ter­ests, as well as con­duct so­phis­ti­cated mod­ern naval mis­sions, too, has greatly im­proved.

China de­vel­oped its first­gen­er­a­tion war­ships, in­clud­ing guided mis­sile de­stroy­ers, nu­clear-pow­ered at­tack sub­marines and mis­sile de­stroy­ers be­fore the mid-1970s. In the 1990s, the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion guided mis­sile de­stroyer, or CNS Harbin, joined the naval fleet, re­flect­ing Chi­nese war- ships’ fo­cus on ver­sa­til­ity and open sea op­er­a­tions. The Type 052C-class de­stroy­ers, the third-gen­er­a­tion ves­sels in the line, were equipped with point and area de­fense sys­tems.

The suc­cess­ful land­ing and take­off of J-15 fighter jets on the CNS Liaon­ing, the coun­try’s first air­craft car­rier, marked a key break­through in naval op­er­a­tions. The de­ploy­ment of naval air troops, the com­mis­sion­ing of sev­eral nu­clear-pow­ered sub­marines and two air­craft car­ri­ers, and the suc­cess­ful un­der­wa­ter launch of a car­rier rocket have pro­pelled the PLA Navy fur­ther off­shore and en­abled it to con­duct de­fense op­er­a­tions in the open sea.

The PLA Navy has also ex­panded its over­seas peace­keep­ing mis­sions. In 2008, a flotilla com­pris­ing de­stroy­ers CNS Wuhan and CNS Haikou, and sup­ply ship CNS Wei- shanhu, left for the So­mali coast in the navy’s first at­tempt to pro­tect im­por­tant ship­ping lanes and ful­fill hu­man­i­tar­ian du­ties in the open sea.

Over the past eight years the PLA Navy has sent 26 flotil­las to es­cort about 6,400 ships from China and other coun­tries, an achieve­ment that has been praised world­wide. In 2009 the Chi­nese es­cort flotilla was praised by the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der the United Na­tions for per­form­ing peace­keep­ing du­ties in the So­mali wa­ters.

More­over, the PLA Navy helped evac­u­ate both Chi­nese and for­eign na­tion­als from war-stricken Libya and Ye­men in 2011 and 2015. And Chi­nese hos­pi­tal ships have sailed to a num­ber of African, Asian and South Amer­i­can coun­tries to pro­vide med­i­cal aid for lo­cal res­i­dents since 2010.

Ef­forts like these have be­come an in­te­gral part of China’s for­eign aid, prov­ing that the coun­try has ful­filled its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions. They have also en­hanced China’s rep­u­ta­tion as a re­spon­si­ble ma­jor power that seeks to main­tain con­struc­tive in­ter­ac­tion with other naval pow­ers. Chi­nese navy per­son­nel, too, have ben­e­fited a great deal from the over­seas train­ing and mis­sions, and the deep­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion with their for­eign coun­ter­parts, which will bet­ter pre­pare them for unforeseen chal­lenges.

The au­thor is a se­nior re­searcher at the Naval Mil­i­tary Stud­ies Re­search In­sti­tute of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army. The ar­ti­cle is an ex­cerpt from his in­ter­view with China Daily’s Cui Shoufeng.

Zhang Jun­she

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