This photo taken on April 24, 2018 shows J15 fighter jets on China's sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during a drill at sea. A flotilla of Chinese naval vessels held a "live combat drill" in the East China Sea, state media reported early April 23, 2018, the latest show of force by Beijing's burgeoning navy in disputed waters that have riled neighbours.Photo by: Photo: -, AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON — China is developing a navy twice the size of the U.S. Navy and working to replace the United States as the major global power, analysts told a House committee.
China will have about 550 warships by 2030 — nearly double the size of today’s U.S. Navy, said James Fanell, a former Navy intelligence officer now at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
“Expect China to push us out of the region. Expect to lose more allies,” Fanell told the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
The analysts testified about five signals China is working to surpass the U.S. in Asia and elsewhere:
Threat to Taiwan
China has launched an aggressive campaign of “constant coercion” against Taiwan, including interference in its democracy and non-stop cyberattacks, said Dan Blumenthal, director of Asia studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
“Every day that Taiwan survives as a democracy it undermines the support of the Chinese people for China,”said Rick Fisher, a China and Korea analyst at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
China considers the autonomous island a breakaway province. The U.S. supports Taiwan by providing it with weapons to deter Chinese aggression. Chinese President Xi Jinping has signaled that China will seek to reclaim its historical properties by 2049, the centennial of China’s founding, Fanell said.
China has already claimed the South China Sea, which is also claimed by other nations in the region, and China has "plans for Taiwan,” Fanell said.
"They want to get it back,” he said, and told the military to make plans, he said.
Foreign sea ports
China is using a giant infrastructure project, called the Belt and Road Initiative, to build an alternative route from central China to the West. It would circumvent U.S.-controlled shipping lanes to gain control over foreign sea ports and other facilities, Blumenthal said.
“Major investments go to Pakistan and Bangladesh, which allows (China) to go to the Indian Ocean without going through the Straits of Malacca, which are dominated by the USA,” Blumenthal said. “This is cash for access.”
Ships and more ships
China’s Navy currently has 330 ships and 66 submarines, for a total of 396, compared to the U.S. Navy’s total of 283, consisting 211 ships and 72 subs, Fanell said. By 2030, China’s Navy will have 549 ships, including 450 surface ships and 99 subs. It’s not clear if Congress will fund enough shipbuilding to float 355 ships and subs by then, Fanell said.
While the U.S. has relied on having the best military technology on the sea and in the air, China has been closing the technological gap. “The quality of (China’s) warships already presents a credible threat across the Asia-Pacific today,” Fanell said.
One example: China has the world’s first fully nuclear-powered aircraft carrier battle group, with a marine force of 100,000 troops, said Rick Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
China has ground-based laser weapons and missiles and is developing space-based systems to neutralize enemy satellites that the U.S. and its allies use for communications and surveillance, Fisher said
Should war break out between the U.S. and China, one of China's first actions would be to attack assets U.S. has in space, he said. “Their literature talks about space-based bombing platforms.”
Chinese engineers published a 2017 paper about how to build a 5-ton chemical laser satellite capable of targeting other satellites from low-earth orbit.
“The Chinese have told me that when they go to the moon, it will be just as dual use as our Cape Canaveral,” Fisher said. “We cannot allow the moon to become a base for China’s projection of power. And we cannot allow low-earth orbit to become dominated by Chinese military platforms manned and unmanned.”
Despite all this, the U.S. can still target China's vulnerabilities, said Patricia Kim, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
China's totalitarian government and high levels of corruption create a potential for ethnic unrest, "and potential instability that would distract it from its global mission," Kim said.
China has no formal allies, other than a treaty of cooperation with North Korea, while the U.S. has scores of allies around the world, she said.
And rejections of Chinese investment in Greenland, Greece and Zimbabwe show "that even states with a need for economic aid will not accept Chinese investment," Kim said.
"The United States should not only focus on China’s military expansion but push for its own development and interests in east Asia," she added.