PLAN ambition for blue-water navy could be Biden’s greatest foreign policy issue, says GlobalData

It was recently reported that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had commissioned its last batch of Type 056A corvettes specialized in coastal defense, with the total number of the Type 056 series reaching 72. Having built a substantial green water fleet capable of securing its coastal areas, China will shift its focus to the production of a blue-water navy. This underscores one of the greatest foreign policy issues that President Biden is likely to face in his term, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

According to GlobalData’s report, ‘China’s Defense Budget Analysis (FY 2020), Competitive Landscape and Forecasts’, maritime platforms are a significant area of investment for the PLAN. In FY2020, GlobalData estimates that US$3.2bn was put towards procuring maritime platforms, the third largest domain following land platforms (US$6.26bn) and fixed-wing aircraft (US$4.27bn).

Harry Boneham, Associate Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “This latest development could be one of the greatest foreign policy issues that President Biden is likely to face in his term. There is little appetite for direct conflict between the US and China. Regardless of the outcome of a direct matchup between the PLAN and US Navy, economic and geopolitical incentives deter overtly aggressive action on either side.

“Instead, the primary use for a large blue-water fleet would be to exert and propagate Chinese influence. As an expression of Chinese military muscle, such a fleet would enable the Chinese Government to push the issue on territorial disputes from Taiwan to the South China Sea. It may be the case that for the Biden administration, the days of the US being able to squash disputes in the Asia-Pacific region with the mere presence of the US Navy are waning.”

Currently, the PLAN is focused on the development of blue-water capabilities and has embarked upon developing itself from a coastal defense force into a robust blue-water fighting force. In addition to the third aircraft carrier expected this year, work is beginning on a fourth, shipyards such as the vital Jiangnan shipyard are being expanded, and production of Type-039A Yuan class AIP submarines is being ramped up at Wuchang. The PLAN shows no signs of stopping its expansion anytime soon.”

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