Posts Tagged ‘China’s navy’

China’s aircraft carrier conundrum: hi-tech launch system for old, heavy fighter jets

November 20, 2017

PLA Navy’s J-15s, based on a Soviet design more than 30 years old, are world’s heaviest carrier-based fighters

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 November, 2017, 9:07pm

China’s second home-grown aircraft carrier could be a world-class warship if it uses a domestically developed hi-tech launch system, but the hefty fighter jets it would have to launch remain a fly in the ointment for the country’s naval power aspirations.

While Beijing is narrowing the aircraft carrier technology gap with the United States, the country’s carrier programme is still hindered by the capabilities of its carrier-based warplanes.

China spent more than a decade developing its first carrier-based fighter, the J-15, based on a prototype of a fourth-generation Russian Sukhoi Su-33 twin-engined air superiority fighter – a design that is now more than 30 years old.

The J-15, with a maximum take-off weight of 33 tonnes, is the heaviest active carrier-based fighter jet in the world but the sole carrier-based fighter in the People’s Liberation Army Navy. Its weight is one of the key reasons military leaders have pushed for the use of an electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) on China’s third carrier, construction of which is expected to start next year, rather than steam-powered catapults, a military source told the South China Morning Post.

 The PLA Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning arrives in Hong Kong waters in July. Photo: AFP

“The maximum take-off weight of the J-15 fighter is 33 tonnes and experiments found that even the US Navy’s new generation C13-2 steam catapult launch engines, installed on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, would struggle to launch the aircraft efficiently,” the source, who requested anonymity, said.

The US Navy also relied on a heavy carrier-based fighter in the past, the 33.7 tonne F-14 Tomcat. But they were replaced by the lighter F-18 Super Hornet in 2006 after 32 years of service. The maximum take-off weight of an F-18 Super Hornet is 29.9 tonnes according to the website of manufacturer Boeing.

All carrier-based aircraft need to jettison their munitions and burn off their fuel before landing on a carrier to reduce runway damage and the risk of a fire or explosion. The empty weight of the F-18 is 14.5 tonnes, three tonnes less than the J-15, which means the J-15 causes more damage to a carrier runway when it lands.

“If China insisted on using steam-powered catapults to launch the J-15, it would look like forcing a toddler to run with [Chinese hurdler] Liu Xiang and [Jamaican sprinter] Usain Bolt,” the source said. “That would be so embarrassing!

“EMALS’ experimental results showed the new technology is able to catapult the J-15 fighter more easily and more efficiently. In the short-run, it’s impossible for China to produce lightweight fighters, so why not take the better route and use EMALS directly?”

 J-15 fighter jets on the deck of the PLA Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning during military drills in the Bohai Sea, off China’s northeast coast, in December last year. Photo: AFP

The source said China was confident about its EMALS technology now that it was able to produce its own insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) chips, a key component of the high-efficiency electric energy conversion systems used in variable-speed drives, trains, electric and hybrid electric vehicles, power grids and renewable energy plants.

The technology was developed by China’s first semiconductor manufacturer, Hunan-based Zhuzhou CSR Times Electric, and British subsidiary Dynex Semiconductor after the Chinese company acquired 75 per cent of Dynex’s shares in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

An integrated propulsion system, a technological breakthrough developed by top PLA Navy engineer Rear Admiral Ma Weiming and his team, will enable China’s second home-grown aircraft carrier to use the world’s most advanced launch system for its fighter jets without having to resort to nuclear power.

An aircraft carrier uses a lot of electric power for take-offs and landings and the integrated propulsion system will be able to provide it. Ma has said experimental results showed the system could result in fuel savings of up to 40 per cent for an aircraft carrier.

EMALS, with a higher launch energy capacity, will also be more efficient than steam-powered catapults, allowing for improvements in system maintenance, increased reliability, and more accurate end-speed control and smoother acceleration.

In an interview with China Central Television broadcast on November 3, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Equipment Research Centre, said China had done “hundreds of [land-based] tests” using EMALS with J-15 fighters in the past few years.

Yin’s comments indicate China might now have mature and reliable EMALS technology. But they also revealed an embarrassing fact: the next generation Chinese aircraft carrier, equipped with a US-style catapult launch system, will still be launching outdated fighter jets.

The US and the former Soviet Union had different combat strategies in mind when they designed their aircraft carriers. For the US Navy, carrier-based fighters were the key weapons of a carrier battle group, while the Soviets opted to add different types of missile launchers and warplanes and relied on an inefficient ski-jump launch ramp.

China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and its sister warship, the 001A, which was launched in April, both have runways featuring ski-jump ramps, which limit them to launching one fighter jet at a time. The catapults used on US carries can launch up to four aircraft simultaneously.

“There are limits to China’s J-15 as it was developed based on the Su-33, which was designed for the former Soviet navy’s Kuznetsov-class carrier, the predecessor of the Liaoning,” another source close to the PLA Navy said.

The Liaoning, then an unfinished Kuznetsov-class carrier known as the Varyag, was bought by Hong Kong-based businessman Xu Zengping, a PLA Navy proxy, from a Ukrainian shipyard in 1998.

 China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is launched at a shipyard in the northeastern port city of Dalian on April 26. Photo: Kyodo

China has been trying to develop a new generation carrier-based fighter, the FC-31, with a maximum take-off weight of 28 tonnes, to replace the J-15, and put J-15 chief designer Sun Cong in charge of the project.

Pictures posted on mainland military websites show that Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, the manufacturer of the J-15, has produced two FC-31 prototypes, with one debuting at the Zhuhai air show in 2014.

However, the two military sources said, the development of the FC-31 had not proceeded smoothly and it had failed to meet the PLA Navy’s requirements, with the key obstacle being what one described as “heart disease”.

“China is still incapable of developing an engine for the FC-31 fighter,” the first source said. “The FC-31 has needed to be equipped with Russian RD-93 engines for test flights.”

The second source said the FC-31’s failure to meet the PLA Navy’s basic requirements for a new generation fighter meant “that in the next two decades, the J-15 will still be the key carrier-based fighter on China’s aircraft carriers”.

Above: A U.S. Navy F/A-18 is launched from an aircraft carrier


China Reforming The World Order — Some friction to be expected in China’s rise as global leader

November 2, 2017

By Goh Sui Noi
China Bureau Chieg
The Straits Times

BEIJING • China’s ambition under President Xi Jinping is clear – to be a global leader by the middle of this century.

In his report last week to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Mr Xi said China aspires to be a “global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence”.

This is part of the Chinese dream of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” after its century of decline and humiliation from the Opium War of 1840.

The country, Mr Xi said at the 19th five-yearly national congress of the party, is now at a “new historic juncture” in its development. And the new era will be one that “sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind”.

These contributions include, among other things, offering its development model as a “new option” for other countries wanting to speed up their development and taking an “active part” in reforming the international order.

While observers say China’s aspirations are understandable, there are those – both in Asia and the West – who worry about what these mean for the rest of the world.

Western observers are of the view that China intends to replace the US as the dominant power in Asia and reshape the international order to be more in line with its interests.

China’s ambition to serve as a development model and increase its international influence, together with its endeavour to turn its People’s Liberation Army into a first-class military force – as mapped out in Mr Xi’s report – reinforces “the widely held assessment that China harbours a deep-seated desire to displace the United States as the dominant power in Asia”, wrote two analysts with the American think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Photo: A military band practising before the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. While observers say China’s aspirations are understandable, there are those who worry about what these mean for the rest of the world. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


In addition, wrote Ms Bonnie Glaser and Mr Matthew Funaiole, Mr Xi’s highlighting of the building of islands and reefs in the South China Sea as a major achievement of his first term showed China would “prioritise strengthening its control over the contested waterway at the cost of rising friction with its neighbours and the United States”.

Furthermore, during his first term, Mr Xi has sent mixed signals over whether China supported a rules-based international order, taking part in United Nations peacekeeping missions but also rejecting international tribunal findings against its claims to the South China Sea. Mr Xi’s vision for the future, they suggested, may signal an intention to double down on challenging elements of the prevailing world order that Beijing sees as contrary to Chinese interests.

During his first term, Mr Xi has sent mixed signals over whether China supported a rules-based international order, taking part in United Nations peacekeeping missions but also rejecting international tribunal findings against its claims to the South China Sea.

The “overarching vision (Mr Xi) laid out should raise alarm bells in Asian and Western capitals”, they said.

While not disagreeing totally on the issue of the international order, Professor Jia Qingguo, dean of Peking University’s School of International Studies, said China’s promotion of reform of the international order is not about China’s interests alone, but also about making the system more equitable and fair.

He added that China is a beneficiary of the international order and that stability of the system is important to it.

He pointed out that Mr Xi, in his report to the party congress, also stressed that China would safeguard the stability of the order.

He added that the US was the most powerful nation in the world and that it was important for China to handle its relations with the US well. “This is important bilaterally for China, and also for safeguarding the international order.”

As for China’s growing military might, he contended that a strong Chinese military is not a bad thing. “If it is in China’s interest to safeguard this order, then a strong China is a good thing for the international order,” he said.

Prof Jia also pointed out that while China needs to be heard on the world stage because of its growing interests all over the world, the international community is also demanding that it plays a bigger role given its growing influence as a result of its economic might.

“In the past, China could sometimes dodge or keep quiet,” he said. “But now as its status and influence grow, people expect it to say or do something.”

On issues like the North Korean nuclear crisis, “people expect China not just to speak up but also play an important role”, he noted.

The US has been pressing Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and the subject is expected to come up when US President Donald Trump visits China next week.

Still, there is also disquiet in the Asian region over China’s intentions as it grows stronger.

Over in India, former Indian ambassador to China Ashok Kanthi wrote that the manner in which the Chinese pursued their dream “has generated widespread anxieties, including in India”. This included “China’s readiness to deploy its economic, military, political and diplomatic clout to advance its interests, defined in increasingly expansive and unilateral terms”.

In Indonesia, an article in The Jakarta Post pointed to Mr Xi’s envisioning of a more modern and powerful military for the new era, saying the Indonesian military needed to continue to reform and modernise too, to respond to the changing strategic environment. It talked about the possibility of confrontation with “a more affluent and powerful China” over “the unresolved territorial dispute over parts of the South China Sea near the Natuna Islands”.

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China H-6 bomber near Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

It also raised concern over China’s Belt and Road Initiative to help build infrastructure in developing countries, saying that while Indonesia should make the most of the financing and development opportunities presented by the initiative, it also needed to ensure that the law of the land prevailed.

While there are actions by the Chinese that cause concern, particularly in their neighbourhood, Professor Yang Dali of Chicago University warned against getting into a situation where whatever the Chinese do “is necessarily bad”.

He pointed out that Mr Xi was right in saying that some Chinese practices and experiences may be of value to other developing countries which can learn from them, such as China’s development of infrastructure and investment in education.

He noted, too, that in the area of climate change, China has chosen to play a pivotal and global role that has been welcome.

China, he said, has been willing to learn, adapt and react to external criticism, including in the way the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is run. In doing so, China will not only be a global citizen “but also play a leadership role that is valuable for the global community”, he added.

In the East Asian region, China’s problem is possibly that it has risen so fast that it is not ready for the leadership role that it is playing.

It needs to go through a learning period, Prof Jia noted, including accumulating knowledge of international organisations and understanding of the conditions of the region and its history and culture.

Both sides, China and its neighbours, have to adjust to each other, he said.

China was an ordinary power before now, but is becoming less so.

“China needs to adjust its view of things and the way it does things accordingly,” said Prof Jia.

At the same time, countries in the region also need to adjust to China’s rise. While in the past they may be used to a certain way of dealing with their relationship with China, they now have to use other methods.

“During this period of adjustment, there may be contradictions and conflict,” he said.

At the end of the day, he said, China’s desire is to have good relations with its neighbours because this means China will be more secure and have more opportunities for growth.

The same could be said for countries in the region. The question is what kind of relationship is acceptable to both sides – and that needs to be negotiated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2017, with the headline ‘Friction to be expected in China’s rise as global leader’. Print Edition | Subscribe

China Navy Ships Depart for Joint Drills With Russia

September 14, 2017

BEIJING — Four Chinese navy ships have departed for joint drills with Russia in the latest sign of growing cooperation between the two militaries that could challenge the U.S. armed forces’ role in the Asia-Pacific.

A destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship and submarine rescue ship departed Wednesday from the port of Qingdao, home to China’s north sea fleet, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The drills are being held in the Sea of Japan near the Korean Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Xinhua said.

The exercises are the second stage of an annual joint drill, the first part of which was held July 22-27 in the Baltic Sea — the first time the countries had exercised together in the northern European waterbody.

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Chinese and Russian destroyers take part in a previous joint exercise in 2014 / AP

Russia and China are closely aligned on many diplomatic and security issues, with both countries calling for a negotiated settlement of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, preceded by North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile activities in return for the U.S. and South Korea halting their regular large-scale wargames.

July’s joint drills in the Baltic stirred concern among countries in the region, where tensions are already high over increased displays of military force by both Moscow and NATO.

Both Russia and China say the exercises are not directed at any third parties.

The Chinese ships taking part in the exercises are among the country’s most advanced, components of a growing fleet that poses a significant challenge to the U.S. Navy’s traditional dominance in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing has long chafed at the American presence and is a strong critic of its alliances with Japan, Australia and other countries in the region.

China already has the world’s largest navy, with slightly over 300 vessels, compared to the U.S. Navy’s 277 “deployable battle force ships,” according to the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence forecasts it will have 313-342 warships by 2020.

While China’s ships are technologically inferior to those of the U.S. Navy, their sheer numbers allow China a significant presence on the open sea, institute professor Andrew S. Erickson wrote in a recent study.

China, Russia Demonstrate Global Military Might

August 1, 2017

 The huge display of military hardware also featured 12,000 troops. Photo: Xinhua

Taiwan says it’s prepared to defend itself — Reaction to pushy Chinese patrols — Strongly worded response to recent flybys by Chinese warplanes

July 25, 2017

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A Taiwanese Indigenous Defense Fighter (IDF) (below) monitors a Chinese Xian H-6 bomber near Taiwan’s air defence identification zone July 20, 2017. Picture taken July 20, 2017. Handout via REUTERS


JULY 25, 2017 / 2:04 AM

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan is prepared to defend itself against China if necessary, the self-ruled island’s defense ministry said on Tuesday, in a strongly worded response to recent flybys by Chinese warplanes near the island China claims as a wayward province.

China’s military has flown several fighter and reconnaissance aircraft near Taiwan for training exercises in the past few days, according to the ministry.

“The People’s Liberation Army has never given up on the idea of resolving problems through the use of military force,” ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi told a news briefing.

“We believe in peace. We will not take the initiative that could lead to war. But we will not back down in the face of threats.”

Taiwan was strategically prepared to ensure Taiwan’s security in both the air and sea, Chen added, without elaborating.

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China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Taiwan has complained when it said Liaoning came too close to Taiwan

China has yet to offer an account of the recent drills near Taiwan. China’s air force said earlier this month its fighters and bombers had recently conducted “multiple” long-range drills far out at sea, including flying near Japan and Taiwan.

China has been increasingly asserting itself in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing is also worried about a government in Taiwan China fears is intent on independence.

Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has warned any moves towards formal independence could prompt an armed response.

Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China.

China is in the midst of an ambitious military modernization program that includes building aircraft carriers and developing stealth fighters to give it the ability to project power far from its shores.

Reporting by Faith Hung; Editing by Ben Blanchard


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China H-6 bomber over Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines

2 Chinese bombers flew over Taiwanese airspace: Taiwan

Prime News, International (Taipei), July 22:- Two Chinese H-6K bombers have flown over Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone east of the island under the close vigil of the latter’s combat aircrafts, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said.

Taiwanese fighter jets closely monitored the movements of the Chinese planes and never posed a threat to national security, the ministry said in a statement on Friday, and called for citizens to remain calm.

It is the first time the Taiwanese military has released photographs showing Chinese military aircraft, Efe news reported.

This year has seen a series of intrusions by Chinese planes and vessels — including aircraft carrier Liaoning — through eastern as well as western Taiwanese waters.

Meanwhile, Taipei has bolstered military exercises and taken steps to keep an eye on the passage of Chinese ships and aircrafts.

Earlier, on Thursday, Japan said 10 Chinese military aircrafts, including H-6K bombers, had overflown the East China Sea, passing through the Miyako Strait between Taiwan and Japan.

Since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen — who is opposed to a union with China — took charge in May 2016, Beijing has stepped up the diplomatic siege as well as military intimidation of the island.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has refused to give up on the use of arms to gain control of the territory. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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U.S. Navy Chief Asks Chinese Counterpart for Help on North Korea

July 20, 2017

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s top officer asked his Chinese counterpart to exert influence on North Korea to help rein in its advancing nuclear and missile programs, a U.S. official said on Thursday.

Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson spoke with his Chinese counterpart Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong via a video teleconference.

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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson

“Richardson voiced his concern about the nuclear and missile programs and emphasized that China should use its unique influence over North Korea,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The call lasted for an hour and the two talked about the need to “work together to address the provocative and unacceptable military behavior by North Korea,” the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

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China Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong

Last month U.S. President Donald Trump said Chinese efforts to persuade North Korea had failed.

Trump has hoped for greater help from China to exert influence over North Korea, leaning heavily on Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders had a high-profile summit in Florida in April and Trump has frequently praised Xi while resisting criticism of Chinese trade practices.

North Korea recently said it conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, and that it had mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile.

The United States has remained technically at war with North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty. The past six decades have been punctuated by periodic rises in antagonism as well as rhetoric that has stopped short of a resumption of active hostilities.

Tensions rose sharply after North Korea conducted two nuclear weaponstests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

China launches largest, most advanced warship in Asia, a major step in modernising the PLA

June 29, 2017

The Type 055 destroyer is similar in size to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke class ships and is billed as a major step forward for Chinese sea power

By Liu Zhen
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 June, 2017, 1:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 5:26am

ched what it calls the most advanced and largest warship in Asia on Wednesday, billing it as a major step forward in the modernisation of its navy, according to the official military newspaper.

As the first of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyers – which have a displacement of more than 12,000 tonnes – military experts said it was designed to accompany the country’s future aircraft carrier battle groups.

The destroyer was built at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai and was equipped with air ­defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons, PLA Daily newspaper reported.

The launch of the warship marks an important step towards China’s dream of having a strong and modern naval force, General Zhang Youxia, a member of the Central Military Commission who oversees the army’s equipment, was quoted as saying at the launch ceremony.

Military analysts said the Type 055 was in theory the world’s second most powerful destroyer – after the US Navy’s DDG-1000, or the Zumwalt class. The capabilities of the Type 055 surpass South Korea’s DDG-991 and Japan’s ­Atago class, which have a 10,000 tonne displacement.

 An artist’s impression of the Type 055 destroyer, which China says is the most advanced warship in Asia. Photo: Handout

“In some respects – such as the size, radar system, missile capacity and the multifunctionality in use – the Type 055 has now caught up, or at least it’s on the same level as the United States’ main ­destroyer,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said.

With its size far exceeding a standard destroyer, the launch of the Chinese-designed and built 055 was as significant as that of an aircraft carrier, affording the ­People’s Liberation Army Navy advanced sea capability and weaponry development, experts said.

The need to protect the country’s overseas interests and vital waterways used by oil tankers and cargo ships is expected to increase as the country’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative starts to take shape. But unlike the US Navy, which has a true global presence, PLA ships do not have many overseas ports for resupply, according to Beijing-based military ­analyst Zhou Chenming.

 Type 052D Chinese destroyers Yinchuan and Changsha. Photo: SCMP Pictures

“A larger, better equipped and more advanced vessel will allow the Chinese navy to go further and better protect the country’s interests overseas,” Zhou said. “The Type 055 has filled a big gap.”

Li said the warship would play an important role escorting aircraft carriers or the new advanced Type 071 amphibious assault ships, and it could also lead a comprehensive combat group of smaller destroyers and frigates.

For these purposes the PLA Navy would need at least 10 Type 055 destroyers, and at the current capacity China could build one or two a year, Li said.

Meanwhile, the sheer size of the warship means there is space for more – and more powerful – weapons. Before the 055, the PLA Navy’s most advanced destroyer was the Type 052D, a 7,500-tonne vessel that squeezed in a flat-array radar, a 64-cell vertical launch system (VLS) and long-range anti-air missiles.

“It’s like a small boy carrying a huge bag that’s difficult to handle,” Zhou said of the 052D ­destroyer.

The Type 055, according to the Jane’s Defence Weekly, is over 180 metres long – more than 20 ­metres longer than 052D. It has a 128-cell VLS and missiles to attack planes, ships, submarines and missiles, making it the most powerful destroyer in Asia.

Given its size, it could also serve as a platform to develop the next generation of weapons, such as high-energy radio-frequency equipment, Zhou said.“When you have a bigger home, you can fit in different new furniture.”

But Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Dong said the Type 055 had some “disappointing” design flaws. The relatively low positioning of its flat-array radar system would affect its range of detection, he said, while the use of light aluminium alloy in the upper decks would make it vulnerable to damage.

“Despite its very modern stealth shape, the damage control capability is a big concern,” Wong said. “The design follows the Chinese convention, probably due to a lack of experience … in a combat situation.”

Next, the warship will undergo equipment and sea testing and it is due to enter service next year.


China Launches New Class of Naval Destroyer — Type 055 destroyer — Or is it a cruiser?

June 28, 2017

BEIJING — China’s military on Wednesday launched a new type of domestically-built destroyer, state media said, the latest addition to the country’s rapidly expanding navy.

The 10,000-tonne warship was launched at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, the official Xinhua news agency said, making it the first of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s “new generation” destroyers.

“It is equipped with new air defense, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons,” Xinhua said, without giving further details.

The state-run Global Times newspaper said the ship was believed to be the first Type 055 destroyer, which is considered to be a successor class to the smaller Type 052D guided missile destroyers.

China is still producing the latter and commissioned one, the Xining, in January.

Chinese media showed photos of the new ship covered in streamers and flags and flanked by rows of sailors.

The vessel will have to undergo planned testing before it is commissioned into use.

China is producing warships at a rapid clip as it modernizes its navy, which has been taking an increasingly prominent role among the country’s armed forces.

State media has said that the navy commissioned 18 ships, including destroyers, corvettes and guided-missile frigates in 2016.

In April, China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier, a conventionally powered ship that likely won’t enter service until 2020.

China’s naval build-up, and it’s increasingly assertive stance over disputed territory in the South China, has unnerved its neighbors.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and has been building up military facilities like runways on the islands it controls.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry)


The images from Changxingdao show the module that will contain the forward vertical launch system (VLS) cells, with a second grid of cells set to be positioned forward of the hangar.

The forward grid appears to be divided into 16 sections, four across and four deep, with overall dimensions of 13 m in length and 10.5 m in width.

Comparison with the dimensions of the two 32-cell VLS grids fitted to the Type 052D suggests that the VLS in the Type 055 will have 64 cells in the forward grid.


China has a new larger Type 055 destroyer. I has an estimated displacement of 12,000 tons and and overall length of 180 meters. The latest USA Arleigh Burke Flight IIA weighs in at 9,200 tons, with an overall length of 155 meters. The proposed Flight III upgrade adds an estimated 600 tons displacement without any changes to LOA or beam dimensions.

Initial cost estimates for the first of the four planned Type 055 DDGs is in excess of $5 billion Yuan ($750 million USD). The GOA reported in 2016, that the per-unit cost of an Arleigh Burke Flight IIA is approximately $1.19 billion USD.

Satellite imagery taken of the Jiangnan Shipyard show the Type 055’s under construction.

The Eastpendulum site has satellite imagery from November 2016. It seems to show a third Type 055 Destroyer is being built at Dalian shipyard in Northern China. The first two hulls are currently under construction at Jiangnan Changxing naval shipyard new Shanghai. Type 055 is the next generation class of Guided-Missile Destroyer (DDG) for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy).

The first vessel is likely to be launched in early 2017 while delivery to the PLAN (navy) should not happen until 2018 at the earliest.

The chinese navy is still building the current Type 052D destroyer which is half the size. Both Dalian and Jiangnan naval shipyards are showing several under construction. This is a sign that the Type 055 will not replace the role of Type 052D: The Chinese navy will acquire and operate destroyers of both types displacing 6,000 and 12,000 tons. Sources indicate that Type 052D and Type 055 seem to share a great deal of systems, such as phased array radars, vertical launch systems, main gun, CIWS, as well as possibly the hull mounted and towed sonars.

Satellite imagery of JNCX shipyard near Shanghai over the last few months has shown an impressive pace of work on the first unit of the 055 class large destroyer. Current estimates for the launch of the first unit project it to occur by mid 2017 at the earliest, but also possibly later on in the year.

A not insubstantial volume of defence media hoopla and speculation has surrounded this ship over the last few years since the first photos of the 055 class land based mock up surfaced in mid 2014. Some outlets have even taken the questionable route of comparing 055 to the US Navy’s Zumwalt class destroyer or jumping the gun even further and describing the 055 as a “dreadnought”.

Needless to say, once the first 055 destroyer is launched later this year and once photos of its launch spread their way across the internet, it is likely that the defence media will write even more rabid articles about the 055, and it is likely mainstream news media will report on this as well. One can also expect the launch of the first 055 to be linked with current geopolitical tensions in the Western Pacific (or at least placed within that context), and will also likely be described within the overall modernization effort the Chinese military is engaged in.

This write up therefore will seek to establish a few clear parameters for the 055 itself, including what we know (and don’t know) about its physical characteristics, role, the number to be built, and what its overall capabilities may look like. This will be followed by cautionary statements about how the 055 destroyer should be viewed within the larger framework of the (virtually inevitable) media excitement that will likely engulf this topic.


But first – why do we care?

It is a natural question to ask – why is the 055 news-worthy, and why has there been media chatter about this ship at all over the last few years? Sure, it is a new class of Chinese warship, and any new Chinese military development over the last few years has been met with a decent flurry of media activity, but what’s so special about the 055?

The answer, is size. Prior to the 055, the largest indigenous and modern surface combatant that the Chinese Navy has inducted is the ~7,000 ton full displacement 052D class destroyer, the first of which was launched in 2012 and entered service in 2014 (as of March 2017, five such ships are in service with another six in various stages of sea trials or fitting out and additional ships under construction). The 055 class destroyer on the other hand, is likely to be a significantly larger destroyer than the 052D class. Current estimates based on its dimensions and reliable rumours put its full displacement well over 12,000 tons and likely approaching 13,000 tons (more on this later) – in other words, the 055 will be the largest surface combatant the Chinese Navy has ever inducted up to that point.

Furthermore, at 12,000-13,000 tons full displacement, the 055 would also be one of the largest modern surface combatants built in recent memory. Only the Zumwalt class destroyer would be larger, with a full displacement of over 15,000 tons. Size does matter when judging a warship’s capability and potential, and large size also conveys a more psychological and headline grabbing factor as well. Calling the 055 a “super destroyer” or “cruiser” or (wincingly) a “dreadnought” plays to the imagination of the reader.


055 – characteristics

Speculation surrounding the 055’s physical characteristics have begun to consolidate after the initial wide range of estimates in 2014-2015, partly due to the prevalence of satellite photos over the last year showing the first ship advancing in construction, but also partly due to greater clarity from credible rumour sources and insiders. An initial overview made by yours truly here in 2016, and while most of the information remains relevant, it is wise to update some of it in light of new evidence.

For now, the current consensus of 055’s physical dimensions appear to hover around:

  • Length: over 175 meters but under 180 meters
  • Beam: about 20 meters, perhaps a little bit more but not likely more than 21 meters
  • Full displacement: over 12,000 tons but probably not above 13,000 tons, given the ship’s physical dimensions and the ship’s topside hull and superstructure configuration
  • Draft: hard to judge at this stage but likely proportional to the ship’s length and beam

By comparison, the Ticonderoga class cruiser has a length of 173 meters, a beam of 16.8 meters, and a full displacement of 9,600 tons, while the Flight IIA Burke class destroyer has a length of 155 meters, a beam of 20 meters and a full displacement of 9,200 tons. The Zumwalt class destroyer has a length of 180 meters, a beam of 24 meters  and a full displacement in excess of 15,000 tons. It is worth mentioning that Chinese language media (both official and non-official) have often referred to the 055 destroyer as a “10,000 ton class destroyer” however this is a translation of the term “wan dun qu hu jian” or “ten thousand ton destroyer” which is more a reflection of the ship being in the “10,000 ton” weight class rather than having its empty, standard, or full displacement be at 10,000 tons exactly.

In terms of armament, the 055 is expected to field the same universal VLS first fielded aboard the 052D class destroyer, but in greater numbers. Consistent estimates based on rumours and based on 055’s configuration suggest a likely VLS number of 112-128 VLS cells, though there have been less credible suggestions that it may be as low as 96 cells, but at present the consensus suggests a 112-128 VLS count. Some seemingly official state media outlets have also suggested that the 055 will have a VLS count of 128, however we won’t know what the situation really is until we get pictures of the real thing. Other secondary armament that is widely expected to be present includes the H/PJ-38 130mm main gun, the H/PJ-11 30mm CIWS, and the HHQ-10 missile CIWS, as well as torpedo tubes.

There have been suggestions that the 055 may field rail guns or lasers/DEWs in the future, however this would be dependent on the ship’s mode of propulsion. The “initial batch” of 055s are expected to field four QC-280 gas turbines (the same kind which partially powers the 052D) arranged in a COGAG fashion, however it is widely expected that a subsequent 055 variant will field an Integrated Electric Propulsion system that would enable more power hungry weapons like rail guns or DEWs Chinese Naval R&D into IEPS has been quite well known in the PLA watching community, where Rear Admiral Ma Weiming is a significant driver (he is the same person behind the the Chinese Navy’s EM catapult programme), so a future “055A” with IEPS is currently considered to be on the cards for the future.

In terms of sensors, the 055 is expected to adopt some sensors that have been fielded on previous ships like the Type 346A APAR from the 052D class destroyer, but also possibly new sensors like an X band APAR and potentially a new volume search radar, but these have yet to be confirmed. The 055 will likely field a similar ASW/sonar sensor suite to the 052D, including a towed sonar and a variable depth sonar (an aft hatch for a VDS may already have been sighted in the 055’s hull). The 055 has also consistently been suggested to field much enhanced command and control and combat management capability over its predecessors, and given it is a newer ship and a much larger ship allowing for more internal processing power and volume for command staff, this is not unexpected. However the relative advancement of software and hardware behind such advances would not likely to ever be known.

The 055 is confirmed to have two helicopter hangars, but the type of helicopter they are meant to employ is not known. Previous rumours have suggested they would employ the Z-18F large ASW helicopter, but recent pictures of the ship under construction seem to suggest the hangars would only be able to accommodate a medium helicopter like Z-9, Ka-27 or Seahawk sized aircraft.

The 055 is also expected to field advancements in signature management compared to its predecessors, and this can partly be seen even in the Wuhan mock up’s greater integration of topside structures like the deckhouse and the smoke stack. The 055’s bow/prow also appears to be the first major Chinese surface combatant to be “enclosed” where bow knick knacks like anchors are placed below decks. However the 055 almost definitely does not seek to achieve a level of stealth that the Zumwalt class destroyer does.

The 055s bow module, showing the enclosed nature of its foredeck


055 – numbers

A big part of the 055 media story will be about its size, but perhaps the bigger and more geopolitically important issue is just how many 055s will be built. After all, one only needs to look at the Zumwalt class destroyer to see a very advanced and potentially very capable ship that has had its numbers significantly cut and causing unit price and subsystem price to inflate, causing further consequences for each ship’s capability. Indeed, with only three Zumwalt class destroyers to be built and the Flight III Burke destroyer slated to supplement and replace the US Navy’s ageing Ticonderoga class cruisers in the post 2020 era, it is instructive to understand the importance of quantity rather than only quality.

Past rumours have suggested that the 055s will not be built in small numbers. Indications for an “initial batch” was placed at anywhere between 4 to 8 ships, with subsequent batch orders to be followed, and the ships would be built at least two shipyards: JNCX (Jiangnan Changxing) near the city of Shanghai, and DL (Dalian) at the city of Dalian. The pace of construction was expected to be respectable but not too fast or too slow. JNCX was expected to build a couple of ships first and launch them before DL began construction of them.

Initial photos of the first 055 unit under construction at JNCX appeared on the Chinese internet in June 2016, as expected. However, subsequent satellite photos from a number of sources then indicated that the pace of construction at JNCX was faster than expected. Indeed, by early October, the modules for the first 055’s hull were all identified by satellite, but a new module appeared at that same time and it was realized this module was likely for a second 055 unit. Subsequent photos in November and December then showed the first 055′ major hull modules joined and assembled together and placed under cover for further work, while additional modules for the second 055 unit at JNCX also emerged and began assembly, and starting to look like what the first 055’s modules looked like in June, six months earlier.

Initial satellite photo of modules for the first 055 at JNCX, taken in July 2016, highlighted in red
Satellite photo taken of JNCX in August, 2016, showing the same modules of the first 055 unit
Satellite photo of JNCX taken in October 2016, depicting modules for the first 055 unit (red) showing the bow module and amidships/aft module, as well as an additional module for the second 055 unit (green)
Satellite photo of 055 taken in November 2016. The modules for the first 055 unit have been fully joined and partially placed under cover with elevated side structures for work. An additional module for the second 055 unit is also indicated compared to October (green)
Satellite photo taken in December 2016, showing further work on 055 unit 1 and assembly/joining of the two previously separate modules of 055 unit 2

Even more surprising than JNCX’s relatively fast pace of construction, was work at DL, which presented a surprise when satellite photos in late November 2016 appeared to show a large number of 055 modules in its staging yard, corresponding with insiders who confirmed with ground based photos that the modules were indeed for 055s. Photos in December 2016 and January 2017 further confirmed additional 055 modules being placed in the staging yard, with enough 055 modules estimated for at least 2 055s, potentially up to 3. While it was expected that DL would start construction of 055s eventually, it came as a surprise to see so many 055 modules at such a stage of relative completion, before JNCX had yet to even launch the first 055 unit.

A number of 055 modules were seen at DL in late Novemer 2016
A satellite photo of DL in early December 2016 indicated advancements, where some additional modules were added to the staging area. Yellow indicates modules judged to be necessary for one full 055 hull, while blue indicates modules that may be for a second hull
A satellite photo of DL in late January 2017 confirms that additional 055 modules have been moved to the staging area in the shipyard, now with enough modules for at least two, potentially nearly three full 055 hulls, indicated in yellow, blue and purple. It is suspected that the modules may be moved and assembled into hulls in the large drydock adjacent to the staging area

Accompanying the emergence of these satellite photos in late 2016 and early 2017, were rumours that the Chinese Navy has increased the order of 055s in its initial batch, beyond the initially suspected 8 units (which was the high end estimate anyway), to potentially double digits (a number thrown around so far as been 12). Whether it means more ships will be inducted in the same amount of time (i.e.: increased production/commissioning rate), or if it the rate of construction will remain the same, is not yet known, but seeing the pace of construction at both JNCX and DL shipyards, it is easy to think it may be the former.

As of present, at least four 055 hulls (or modules for that many ships), have been positively identified. The final number of 055s to be built will not be known for many years, however it can be safely assumed to be significantly more than three (re: Zumwalt). The 055 is likely to spawn subsequent variants with advanced subsystems as they mature, such as IEPS, new sensors and exotic weapons like rail guns and DEWs. One only needs to look at how the original 052 class destroyer later gave way to the 052D.


055 – role

With the 055’s characteristics and numbers out of the way, one is able to make more informed speculation about the 055’s role. And in a way, this is perhaps the easiest task to do. When looking at the Chinese Navy’s missions and requirements over the next few decades, an increased demand for long range blue water operations becomes very apparent.

The 055 will take up the role of a traditional long range surface combatant – or as it may be called, a “cruiser”. The 055 will take the responsibility for being the primary “shield” of a task force like a carrier strike group, with the most capable air defence and command and combat management facilities among all the escorts in the group (which would include medium weight destroyers like 052C/Ds and 054As and the future frigate). 055s will also be large enough to conduct independent long range patrols when necessary, as well as likely able to be arranged with other 055s and smaller 052Ds to form surface action groups for missions if they demand it.

Numbers matter – if the Chinese Navy only had a handful of 055s at its disposal, the ability for the Navy to conduct those missions will be limited due to low availability of the ship type. However, over the next decade it is likely that a fairly large number of 055s will enter service. While they will definitely not be the most numerous ship type in the Chinese Navy by any means, they will likely be built in significant enough numbers to complement the large number of blue water capable air defence frigates and aegis-type medium weight destroyers to fill a much needed capability gap in the Navy.

It is also rather surprising that an official PLA affiliated news outlet was quite candid and accurate in describing the role of the 055, stating “Type 055 undertakes multiple combat functions and is also responsible for escorting aircraft carrier battle group”. This of course is entirely sensible and consistent with what would be expected from this ship.

Finally, it is interesting to note that the PLA has been sensitive about how English language defence media have been portraying the 055 class as a “cruiser” as well as its potential to be a “game changer” in naval warfare.

From the same previous article, published in late February 2017:

The reporter noticed that this wasn’t the first time that western media call China’s Type 055 guided-missile destroyer a cruiser.

Regarding this, Li Jie replied that in terms of tonnage alone, Type 055 is larger than many serving cruisers. America’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser, for instance, has a full load displacement of less than 10,000 tons. As a matter of fact, destroyer and cruiser aren’t that different today, and most countries don’t even develop cruiser anymore.

Going forward, destroyers will have ever larger tonnage and stronger functions with particular strength in a specific aspect, whereas cruiser has limited functions and is not as flexible as destroyer when carrying out missions.

“The fact that western countries call China’s Type 055 destroyer a cruiser indicates that they are looking at China’s military development with colored glasses and magnifying the function and role of China’s equipment. It’s a manifestation of the China Threat theory,” Li Jie added.

And from an earlier article in 2015:

The U.S. media recently reported that the new type-055 guided missile destroyer of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) and the U.S. Aegis warship are on a par with each other in terms of power and strength and that the type-055 destroyer is one of the five weapons China might use to change rules of the game in the future.

  However, Yin Zhuo, a Chinese military expert, said in an interview that the so-called type-055 destroyer is not the world’s largest guided missile destroyer and speculation that it will change the rules of the game is just an exaggeration.

There are two rather interesting points to takeaway from this. First, is that the Chinese military is well aware of the cultural connotations of the word “cruiser” and the precedents for calling large surface combatants as “destroyers,” most notably by the quite large Zumwalt class destroyer. Naturally, if the Zumwalt class is referred to as a destroyer, the 055 which is about 2,000 tons lighter, would also rightly be called a destroyer.

Second, is the Chinese military’s sensitivity to the portrayal of the 055’s capabilities as a significant development. They continue to be averse to insinuations that their military capability is that great, and that is likely part of their distaste to the portrayal of Chinese military developments in a “threatening” manner by foreign media, but also at the same time is partly a reflection of their desire to maintain high operational security which seeks to cause foreign adversaries to miscalculate and often underestimate the true capabilities and true level of development of their various weapons programmes.


So what about the media?

Equipped with the above knowledge, one is able to hopefully view the media’s inevitable reporting on 055 in a more accurate and even handed light.

If an article or website sensationalizes the 055 as a “dreadnought” then one should be able to respond very skeptically to such a claim. If an article compares the 055 with the Zumwalt class, one should be able to think of the differences in role, size, and number between the two warship types and realise how I’ll advised such a comparison would be. If an article compares the 055 with the Burke class, one should also be able to consider the differences in role, size and number between the two warship types.

If an article tries to discuss the role of the 055 in the Chinese Navy and the geopolitical consequences of it, one should be able to take a step back and view the 055’s role in the Navy alongside other, smaller blue water capable ships like frigates (054A, and future 054B), and medium weight destroyers (052C, 052D). If an article tries to compare how capable an 055 is versus a Ticonderoga or a Sejong or an Atago or a Burke, one should hopefully be able to also understand such a “match up” is immensely unlikely to occur in a realistic conflict scenario as the navies of the opposing side’s will be fielding their warships as a “system of systems” rather than sending them piece meal, one against another in an equal fashion.

But at the same time, that doesn’t mean one should be blind to the rather unprecedented nature of the 055 both in context of the Chinese Navy and in context of global naval trends.

In the Chinese Navy, one needs to recall that this is the single largest class of surface combatant ever developed and produced, much larger than the previous 7,000 ton 052D. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that at least four 055s are currently under various stages of construction well before the first 055 unit has yet to be even launched, which is a significant departure from previous classes of major surface combatants where they were either variants of preceding existing hull types that were first produced in small numbers (such as the heritage of 052D/052C/052B/052, and 054A/054).

In terms of the world’s naval context, one only needs to look at how few navies are producing modern surface combatants with displacements well over the 10,000 ton class in the numbers that the 055 will be expected to be, to see how unique the 055 is simply as a class of warship in its own weight and capability category. The Zumwalt class as a 15,000+ ton class destroyer is advanced and impressive but is limited to only three units. The Flight III Burke which will likely succeed the Ticonderoga class in the near future makes advancements over the Flight IIA Burke but has a smaller VLS load than the Ticonderoga class and will only displace 10,000 tons full, which pushes at the end zones for the ship’s growth margins, and the US Navy’s “Future Surface Combatant” programme is only projected to produce a new warship in the 2030s. The Sejong class destroyer of South Korea is a very impressive ship as well, displacing at about 11,000 tons with three in service and another three looking to be commissioned over coming years and is technically one of the most heavily armed destroyers with 128 VLS as well as 16 dedicated slant AShM launchers, but their number will likely not exceed six in total by the mid 2020s. The Russian Navy is looking to build the formidable 17,500 ton Lider class “destroyer” to replace their ageing Soviet era large surface combatants, but the number of warships to be built and how reliably they can be delivered is a very open question, especially in light of difficulties and delays suffered by other surface combatant projects like the Gorshkov class frigate.

Thus, it is perhaps the psychological and cultural impact of the Chinese Navy fielding a large, modern surface combatant in significant numbers by the early to mid 2020s, which will be of most interest to media and may result in significant re-evaluation of the Chinese Navy’s stature. Of course, such developments do not directly translate to advances in warfighting capability in an immediate sense, as it would take a number of years for commissioned ships and commanders to fully learn how to best operate at the various levels of warfare (tactical, operational and strategic). However when one starts to look around the world and see how many navies are fielding a class of modern surface combatant with displacement well in excess of 10,000 tons, one is able to put the Chinese Navy’s own ambitions into context.


China’s Xi Says Navy Should Become World Class

May 24, 2017

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country’s navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.

China’s navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.

With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.

Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should “aim for the top ranks in the world”, the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit.

Image may contain: 13 people, people standing and indoor

President Xi Jinping (centre), who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, pictured during his inspection of the PLA Navy headquarters, in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

China-Hong Kong Bridge to Unity, or Tentacle of Beijing Control? — Plus: Taiwan’s Failure to Face the Threat From China

May 19, 2017

PEARL RIVER ESTUARY, China — As a 19-mile bridge between Hong Kong and China across the Pearl River estuary nears completion, Chinese officials are hoping it will bring more than economic integration at a time of growing tension between the two sides.

The bridge that snakes out over the blue estuary with soaring pylons, viaducts and towers using more steel than 60 Eiffel Towers, was first proposed in the late 1980s.

Image result for Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau bridge, photos

But it was opposed at the time by Hong Kong’s British colonial government, which was wary of development that might draw the city closer to Communist China.

Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, however, there has been a flurry of projects integrating the port city with the Pearl River Delta’s manufacturing and urban sprawl, and stoking some unease in Hong Kong.

Wei Dongqing, a Chinese Party official and the executive director of the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macau bridge Authority, one of the leaders of the project, sees the bridge, linking the former European colonies of Hong Kong and Macau with Zhuhai city, as promoting unity, both physically and mentally.

“It’s psychological. It joins three places,” Wei told Reuters on a media-trip bus speeding along the half-finished, six-lane bridge, with the facades of Macau’s casinos glimmering in the distance.

“We have confidence for the future … a united market, a united people … that’s the dream.”

After nearly eight years of construction, the cost of the bridge and tunnel project has ballooned to some $19 billion, at the last estimate.

Critics see it as a white elephant, that will struggle to become viable and be unlikely to draw the 40,000 or so vehicles a day as forecast.

While most construction is expected to be finished by year-end to allow the first vehicles to cross, Wei said he “wasn’t sure” when full operations – including toll booths, customs and immigration facilities – would be ready.

“We are facing new challenges after the bridge is completed … how to operate it, make it efficient, and really benefit the whole area,” he said.

The Hong Kong Transport Bureau, which oversees the Hong Kong end of the project, gave no specific response to questions on whether more delays and cost-overruns were expected, but said it was confident construction could be completed by the end of the year.

Final arrangements were being decided by the three sides, it said in an email.

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Mainland and Hong Kong officials have long stressed the bridge’s economic importance at a time when tension in Hong Kong has escalated, with protests in 2014 over Beijing’s refusal to allow full democracy, and suspicion of creeping mainland interference despite a guarantee of autonomy.

Some in Hong Kong, apart from questioning the huge sums that could have gone into health, housing and education, are worried about what they see as an erosion of Hong Kong’s independent identity in China’s increasingly extensive embrace.

“You see a kind of network trying to blur the border between Hong Kong and China,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki.

“In the coming 10 to 15 years, when all these infrastructure projects are completed, you will see Hong Kong is only part of China because you cannot see a clear border.”

Another project – a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail link – sparked an outcry over plans to allow Chinese immigration facilities to operate on Hong Kong soil.

Critics say that undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy under a “one country, two systems” formula, under which the city returned to Chinese rule.

“I don’t think many Hong Kong people mind to be integrated … but what we want is to do it democratically,” said Eddie Chu, who led protests against the rail link and is now an elected lawmaker.

“Behind all the protests in the last 10 to 15 years, the core idea is democracy and it’s an extension of the democratic movement, whether we have popular control over the direction of economic development and town planning.”

But project leader Wei, dressed in gray overalls and a white hard-hat, celebrates the integration that the critics decry.

“It’s actually one bridge, three systems. It’s about the law, policy, transportation policy, customs policy,” said Wei.

“The bridge is becoming a new icon.”

(Additional reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Robert Birsel)


TAIPEI, Taiwan — China’s aggression in the Asia-Pacific region has been met with little tangible response from the United States and other countries. China’s neighbors have acquiesced to Beijing’s claims to the airspace above the East China Sea and have stood by as it embarked on a long-term project to militarize the South China Sea. The security balance in Asia is shifting under the weight of a resurgent China.

Beijing’s belligerence presents an existential threat to Taiwan, a country that Chinese leaders have long vowed to take by force if they deem necessary. For years, the political establishment in Taipei has delegated responsibility for responding to Beijing to the United States. Still, with China’s military advances and unchecked assertiveness, we Taiwanese could be headed for a compromise over the fate of our country on China’s terms.

Whether Taiwan eventually falls to Beijing depends on the choices we make now. Taiwan needs a new approach for its security: The political leadership must correct decades of mismanagement of the military and accept ultimate responsibility for the defense of the country.

Taiwan’s capitulation to Beijing would not only destroy the way of life for the 23.5 million Taiwanese — who have become accustomed to personal freedom and democracy — but it would also harm the interests of the United States and its allies. China would be emboldened to consolidate its claims to the surrounding skies and seas, destabilizing the entire Asia Pacific. With full control of Taiwan, Beijing would gain access to ports and airfields uncomfortably close to Okinawa, where over 20,000 American troops are stationed.

Support from the United States has long played a critical role in Taiwan’s defense, beginning in 1949 when the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, was defeated in the Chinese civil war and retreated to the island. Even after Washington severed formal diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of the Beijing government in the 1970s as part of the “one China policy,” it continued to support Taiwan through arms sales, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act.

Before our first democratic presidential election in 1996, China launched missiles into our waters to show its disapproval of the leading candidate, who was seen by Beijing as insufficiently supportive of eventual unification of our two countries. To put an end to the intimidation, the Clinton administration dispatched two aircraft-carrier groups into the region.

Since that crisis, China has become an economic powerhouse focused on building its military, investing in thousands of ballistic and cruise missiles that can damage Taiwan’s ports and runways many times over, neutralizing our navy and air force. These missiles have the range and accuracy to cripple American bases on Okinawa and Guam. This capacity — combined with a buildup of submarines, “carrier killer” missiles and advanced air-defense systems — has all but ensured that the United States would be reluctant to interfere again on behalf of Taiwan in China’s backyard.

Taipei’s political leadership has failed to address this growing threat. Our leaders have gutted the military and continued to base defense planning on the assumption that the United States would always come to the rescue. Policies put forward by the Kuomintang and the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party have left the military understaffed and in a state of low morale.

Taiwan has reduced its active force from 400,000 in 1996 to well under 200,000 (the exact number is classified). The nearly two million reservists exist in name only: They are underequipped, not assigned to actual units, and most have not been called up for retraining. We’ve acquired advanced weapons platforms that are impractical against the threats we face. (For example, we have slow-moving warships and tanks vulnerable to Chinese missiles.) We have neglected logistics and shortfalls in munitions. Training and education have become low priorities.

Taiwan also effectively abolished conscription. Since 2000, the leaders have cut the length of mandatory service from two years to just four months and introduced “alternative services” to allow young men to fulfill their obligations at civilian ministries and private enterprises. In February, we began an alternative program for competitive video gamers. In March, alternative services were expanded to include trainee positions at chain restaurants and 7-Eleven.

We seem to expect American sons and daughters to risk their lives to protect our home, while relieving our own of that very duty.

Taiwan’s defense policies are largely a result of deep distrust between the military and politicians. The military has struggled with scandals ranging from abuse to graft to espionage. (In November last year, more than 30 retired generals caused a public uproar when they were shown on Chinese state television at a speech in Beijing by the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.)

It is also burdened by its past as a pillar of the former authoritarian regime: For 40 years, before the democratic transition, the military carried out surveillance of activists and court-martialed dissidents — many of whom now hold political office.

After democratization, military officers went from being feared to being disrespected. Force reductions and pension cuts have further alienated them from the political process. A common refrain among officers is that “democracy ruined the military.”

This mutual suspicion has prevented policy makers from embracing military affairs. The Democratic Progressive Party’s landslide victory in the 2016 elections was recognized as a rebuke of the Kuomintang’s pro-China policies, yet only one lawmaker in the 113-member Legislature initially signed up to serve on the defense committee.

The lack of engagement of our politicians is in contrast to the views of most of the people. In a 2015 survey, 60 percent of respondents agreed that conscription should be reinstated to enhance military strength. In 2016, the support for national service rose to 83 percent.

President Tsai Ing-wen and other elected officials must rebuild our armed forces by first restoring the trust between civilian and military leaders. They must also correct the misconception that Taiwan stands no chance against China’s military without help from the United States. A country outnumbered and outgunned can still mount a formidable defense with the right strategy, an adaptive military and a hardened population.

As commander in chief, Ms. Tsai must articulate to the military that its sole job is to prepare to fight — and win — wars. We must ensure peace between Taiwan and China on our terms.

The Taiwanese public’s resolve is clear. Our elected leaders must follow.