Irshad Salim — China’s military on Wednesday launched its most powerful domestically-built destroyer — the latest addition to the country’s rapidly expanding navy and comes at a time of rising competition with other naval powers such as the United States, India and Japan.
The 10,000-ton 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 (among the largest warships in the world), which is considered to be a successor class to the smaller Type 052D guided missile destroyers. China is believed to be planning to produce four of the ships.
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 pace 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, say analysts.
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.
According to Washington, D.C.-based Center for Naval Analysis, Chinese navy’s ambitious expansion plan is projected to have a total of 265-273 warships, submarines and logistics vessels by 2020. That compares with 275 deployable battle force ships presently in the U.S. Navy, China’s primary rival in the Asia Pacific, with the once-yawning gap between the two narrowing rapidly.
China says it needs a powerful navy to defend its 14,500 kilometers (9,010 miles) of coastline, as well as its crucial maritime shipping routes.
However, it also appears increasingly willing to challenge actions by the U.S. — long the region’s pre-eminent military power — especially in the South China Sea. Both sides have accused each other of “militarizing” the South China Sea.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims.
Beijing has also long nurtured resentment against Japan over its past invasion of China, and their dispute over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea has at times threatened to break out into open confrontation.
India, meanwhile, shares a disputed border with China in the north and has grown increasingly concerned over Chinese navy’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, facilitated in part by Beijing’s close alliance with Pakistan — the allies have entered into a long term geo-economic partnership called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — much to the discomfort of Pakistan’s arch-rival India which has entered into a defense and strategic alliance with the US — to checkmate China’s growing clout in the region and the world.
With Gwadar port in Balochistan as the gateway, CPEC will provide China through its western province of Xinjiang the shortest route to the Middle East, Africa and beyond. Observers say it’s a windfall of geoeconomic and geostrategic gain for the ‘iron brothers.’
According to reports, China’s colossal Type 055 cruiser is considerably larger and more powerful than India’s latest Project- 15B “Visakhapatnam” class destroyers which have still not been commissioned.
While India’s latest destroyers will displace close to 8,200 tons when completely armed and are designed to carry a mix of 50 surface-to-air, anti-ship and land attack missiles. In contrast, China’s giant cruiser will combine nearly 120 missiles, making it one of the most sophisticated and heavily-armed ships in the world.
‘Indian Navy Outgunned As China Launches Its Biggest Destroyer’, captioned one of the most influential Indian paper on its report on the latest development.
In January this year, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., the Commander of the US Pacific Command said, “I believe India should be concerned about the increased Chinese influence. If you believe there is only a finite amount of influence in the region, then whatever influence that China has is influence that India doesn’t have.”