6
The ambition for a bluewater navy

The PLA Navy's modernisation has been slow, but gradually it has begun to produce visible results. The PLA recognises that in order to achieve a reliable defence depth the navy must be able keep the enemy's warships far beyond China's coastal waters. At the same time, to deal with maritime territorial conflicts that involve China and a number of its neighbouring countries, the PLA Navy (PLAN) must be capable of projecting power into oceans far from the continent. Gradually, this recognition evolved into a complete set of new naval theories, including bluewater combat tactics, bluewater weapons programs, and above all a sea power mentality (haiyang yishi). Vice Admiral Cheng Mingshang, vice commander- in-chief of the navy, set this out in clear terms in 1991:

The navy is the tool of big powers' foreign policy. Compared with the army and air force, which cannot go beyond the national boundaries, an international navy can project its presence far away from home. It can even appear in the sea close to the coastlines of potential opponents. While this demonstration of power constitutes a high level of deterrence, it does not provide any formal excuse for the target countries to protest. Such a function of projecting power has made the navy a most active strategic force in peace time, a pillar for foreign policy initiatives and an embodiment of a country's will and power. 1


CHINA'S MARITIME INTERESTS

According to Zhang Xusan, former vice-commander-in-chief of the PLAN, China's naval modernisation has entered a new era and so has the development of its maritime strategy. The design of this strategy runs parallel with China's new appreciation of its maritime interests. 2 The PLA has realised that in the era of information

-160-

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The Armed Forces of China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Armed Forces of Asia i
  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Tables, Figures and Maps viii
  • Preface ix
  • Glossary of Acronyms xi
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - Embracing Revolution in Military Affairs 1
  • 2 - Positioning the Pla for a 21st-Century War 28
  • 3 - In Search of High-Tech Military Power 56
  • 4 - Sharpening the Nuclear Sword 85
  • 5 - The Build-Up of an Offensive Air Force 118
  • 6 - The Ambition for a Bluewater Navy 160
  • The Pla and Regional Security 201
  • Conclusion 227
  • Notes 238
  • Bibliography 262
  • Index 282
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