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PLA Navy @ 73: A Journey from Assassin’s Mace to Safeguarding Overseas Interests

Updated: May 31, 2022

China’s naval capabilities are not only growing quantitatively but also improving qualitatively. The PLA Navy is also developing its Marine Corps, which has grown from two to eight brigades since 2017

A week before its 73rd anniversary, the Chinese state television aired the footage of the day and night drills by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) along the coast of South China and East China Seas. The PLAN celebrates 73 years of formation on April 23. Formed at Baima (白马, baima), a town under the administration of Gaogang District in Jiangsu province of China, the PLAN has today become the world’s largest navy in numerical terms surpassing the US by 350 to 297.

Notably, it was only a 255-ship force in 2015 before China went on a spree of building naval vessels. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power initiative highlights that between 2014 and 2018, China launched more submarines, warships, amphibious vessels and auxiliaries than the number of ships currently serving in the individual navies of Germany, India, Spain and the United Kingdom. For instance, 18 ships were commissioned by China in 2016 alone, and at least another 14 were added in 2017. By comparison, the US Navy commissioned only five ships in 2016 and eight ships in 2017. The US intelligence estimates that the PLAN would be fielding around 400 vessels by 2025 and about 425 battleships by 2030 if it continues at the same rate.


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