China’s Daring Vanguard: Introducing Sanya City’s Maritime Militia

CIMSEC – The following is the first in a five-part series meant to shed light on Hainan Province’s maritime militia. For decades, these irregular forces have been an important element of Chinese maritime force structure and operations. Now, with Beijing increasing its capabilities, presence, and pushback against other nations’ activities, in the South China Sea (SCS), Hainan’s leading maritime militia elements are poised to become even more significant. Yet they remain widely under-appreciated and misunderstood by foreign observers.

Military Facilities on South China Sea Artificial Islands are ‘For Defense Purposes Only’

USNI News – Amidst U.S. and Australian concerns of Chinese military expansion in the South China Sea, officials with China’s foreign ministry are claiming military facilities on a series of artificial islands are “for defense purposes only” in reaction to “high-profile display[s] of military strength and frequent and large-scale military drills by certain countries and their allies in the South China Sea.”

China’s Shoddy, Noisy Nuclear Submarines

War is Boring – Over the past two decades, the People’s Republic of China has made great advances in its military capabilities. However, it still lags woefully behind in developing nuclear-powered submarines. The problem for the Chinese is that they lack the necessary quieting and propulsion technologies to build anything remotely comparable to an American or Russian nuclear submarine.

Chinese Threats to U.S. Surface Ships: An Assessment of Relative Capabilities, 1996–2017

RAND – Over the past two decades, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has transformed itself from a large but antiquated force into a capable, modern military. A RAND Project AIR FORCE report assesses trends in the relative capabilities of U.S. and Chinese forces in diverse operational areas, and at varying distances from the Chinese mainland, between 1996 and 2017. The overall conclusion is that although China continues to lag behind the United States in terms of aggregate military hardware and operational skills, it has improved its capabilities relative to those of the United States in many critical areas. Moreover, the report finds that China does not need to catch up fully to the United States to challenge the U.S. ability to conduct effective military operations near the Chinese mainland. To be clear, the goal is to avoid war, which the authors do not anticipate and which would be disastrous for both countries. Rather, this research provides an open-source assessment of trends that could affect U.S. defense and deterrence efforts and establishes a baseline for future analysis.

China’s Island Building Campaign Could Hint Toward Further Expansions in Indian Ocean

USNI News – China’s creation of military-relevant facilities on its newly-created islands in the South China Sea is a cause for concern for countries in Southeast Asia, and several of its investments in the Indian Ocean are raising more questions over the possibility of China’s first dedicated naval support facility overseas.

China Doubles Down on South China Sea Sovereignty, Warns Against ‘Risky and Provocative’ U.S. Freedom of Navigation Missions

USNI News – Chinese officials again affirmed territorial sovereignty for a series of newly created artificial islands in the South China Sea and warned the U.S. against taking “risky and provocative action” by attempting to come within 12 nautical miles of the islands.

The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996-2017

RAND – his RAND study analyzes the development of respective Chinese and U.S. Military capabilities in ten categories of military operations across two scenarios, one centered on Taiwan and one on the Spratly Islands. The analysis is presented in ten scorecards that assess military capabilities as they have evolved over four snapshot years: 1996, 2003, 2010, and 2017. The results show that China is not close to catching up to the United States in terms of aggregate capabilities, but also that it does not need to catch up to challenge the United States on its immediate periphery. Furthermore, although China’s ability to project power to more distant locations remains limited, its reach is growing, and in the future U.S. military dominance is likely to be challenged at greater distances from China’s coast. To maintain robust defense and deterrence capabilities in an era of fiscal constraints, the United States will need to ensure that its own operational concepts, procurement, and diplomacy anticipate future developments in Chinese military capabilities.

Directing China’s Little Blue Men: Uncovering the Maritime Militia Command Structure

Asia Maritime Transparency Institute – While Russia has employed “Little Green Men” surreptitiously in Crimea, China uses its own “Little Blue Men” to support Near Seas claims. As the U.S. military operates near Beijing’s artificially-built South China Sea (SCS) features and seeks to prevent Beijing from ejecting foreign claimants from places like Second Thomas Shoal, it may well face surveillance and harassment from China’s maritime militia. Washington and its allies and partners must therefore understand how these irregular forces are commanded and controlled, before they are surprised and stymied by them.