Civilian Shipping: Ferrying the People’s Liberation Army Ashore

CIMSEC – The Chinese offshore mobile debarkation system, while not as striking as the Chinese Navy’s newest amphibious assault ships, may have greater implications for how the PLA projects power over-the-shore, especially in a cross-strait amphibious invasion of Taiwan. Any large-scale landing by PLA Navy amphibious assault ships will require significant maritime lift for second echelon forces and logistics. This modular pier system may allow China’s substantial fleet of large civilian RO-RO ships to offload combat troops and equipment directly onto Taiwan’s beaches. Proficiency with this system and other JLOTS capabilities will be a critical capability in a cross-strait invasion if the PLA is unable seize Taiwan’s port infrastructure intact.      

Expect China’s Coast Guard to Conduct Counter-Drug Patrols Off Latin America

CIMSEC – The China Coast Guard (CCG) is growing in capability, capacity, and confidence. With an established presence throughout China’s “near seas” in East Asia and further abroad in the North Pacific on fishery patrols, the possibility of additional long-distance deployments by the CCG should be seen as a matter of when and not if. One such location is off the west coast of Latin America in the Eastern Pacific on counter-narcotic patrols due the increasing problem of illegal drugs from Latin America making their way across the Pacific to Chinese consumers.

PLA uses large civilian ferry ship for vehicle transport in cross-sea landing drills for 1st time

Global Times – A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) amphibious unit recently conducted a series of cross-sea landing drills, in which the troops for the first time used a 10,000 ton-class civilian ferry ship instead of previously used thousands ton-class civilian vessels, with analysts saying on Thursday it could provide a good addition to transporting troops on a large scale in amphibious landing missions.

Leviathan Wakes: China’s Growing Fleet of Autonomous Undersea Vehicles

CIMSEC – This article draws on a wide array of primary sources—including advertisements from defense companies, PLA writings and research papers, and information released by state-run research institutes—to illuminate China’s growing fleet of autonomous undersea vehicles. After profiling three major AUV research institutes, the article identifies potential applications of China’s growing fleet of AUVs and continued barriers to development.

Mind the Gap: How China’s Civilian Shipping Could Enable a Taiwan Invasion

War on the Rocks – Recent months have seen much discussion of the “Davidson Window” — the idea that China could take military action against Taiwan in the next six to 10 years. Assessments of China’s amphibious sealift capability have typically focused on its navy’s dedicated amphibious assault ships, and have largely discounted the ability of China’s civilian merchant shipping to contribute to an invasion — especially in its initial stages. This approach does not take sufficient account of the emerging and ongoing integration of substantial portions of China’s merchant marine into its cross-strait assault forces. When civilian shipping is included in an assessment of China’s cross-strait sealift capability, Davidson’s warning gains added credibility.

Type 054A frigate good choice to expand PLA naval fleet and boost combat preparedness: experts

Global Times – China is reportedly building another batch of Type 054A frigates for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) after it had launched two new ships of this class over the past few months, a move Chinese military observers said on Thursday was aimed at rapidly expanding the country’s naval fleet amid the need to boost its combat preparedness.

China is building a new type of unmanned research ship

South China Morning Post – A Chinese shipbuilder has begun work on an unmanned scientific ship that could be a “game changer” for the country’s marine research. The vessel – said to be the first of its type – will carry drones and be equipped to conduct air, sea surface and underwater monitoring remotely, China Ship News reported on Tuesday.

The Middle Kingdom Returns to the Sea, While America Turns Its Back—How China Came to Dominate the Global Maritime Industry, and the Implications for the World

US Naval War College Review – China soon virtually will control the global seagoing supply chain, with staggering consequences for the United States, its allies, and the world. As a nation dependent on maritime transportation for its economy and the movement of its military forces, the United States must take immediate, decisive steps to promote the reestablishment of a healthy and competitive U.S. maritime industry.

Hostile Harbors: Taiwan’s Ports and PLA Invasion Plans

Project 2049 Institute – The scale of an all-out Taiwan (Republic of China, ROC) invasion by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) military—the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)—defies human comprehension and would likely eclipse any historical comparison. In this important contribution to the field, Senior Director Ian Easton analyzes Chinese military studies frameworks and internal PLA documents to answer pressing questions that will help Taiwan and the United States both understand and better plan for potential crisis scenarios. He highlights the centrality of ROC port facilities—and Taiwan’s ability to defend them—in the PLA’s potential invasion plans for Taiwan, illustrating likely operational strategies explored by PLA leadership. In addition to postulating ports likely targeted in a PLA invasion, he provides recommendations that the Taiwanese government could undertake to ensure its port infrastructure security, as well as recommendations for the United States on how to be a supportive partner to Taiwan in that effort.

Ramping the Strait: Quick and Dirty Solutions to Boost Amphibious Lift

Jamestown Foundation – The apparent shortage of amphibious lift required to execute large-scale landing operations leaves many wondering whether China is serious about its threats against Taiwan. But the PLA may have other plans for transporting troops and equipment across the Strait: the growing capabilities of its merchant roll on-roll off (RO-RO) ships.

China Maritime Report No. 14: Chinese Views of the Military Balance in the Western Pacific

China Maritime Studies Institute – This report examines Chinese views about the military balance of power between China and the United States in the Western Pacific. It argues that while there is no single “Chinese” view on this topic, Chinese analysts tend to agree that 1) the gap between the two militaries has narrowed significantly in recent years, 2) the Chinese military still lags in important ways, and 3) Chinese military inferiority vis-à-vis the U.S. increases the further away it operates from the Mainland. In terms of specific areas of relative strength, the Chinese military has shown the greatest improvements in military hardware, but has farther to go in the area of jointness, training, and other military “software.” Nevertheless, despite continued criticism from senior civilian leaders, training quality has likely improved due to a greater focus on realism, and recent military reforms have, to a degree, improved the prospects for jointness.