Xi Jinping Reviews Navy in the South China Sea

Published Apr 14, 2018 11:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

China's President Xi Jinping reviewed the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the South China Sea last week, saying that the need to build a strong navy "has never been more urgent than today."

Taking part in the review, the largest since China's founding in 1949, were more than 10,000 service personnel, 48 vessels, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, and 76 aircraft. Vessels sailed in seven groups according to their combat functions: strategic strike, submerged attack, open-sea operations, aircraft carrier strike, amphibious landing, offshore waters defense and comprehensive support.

Xi made a speech after the review, pledging to speed up the modernization of the navy. He also asked naval officers to remain on high alert, resolutely defend the national interests and strive to contribute more to upholding the peace and stability of the region and the world.

The inspection came two days after Jinping made a keynote speech on China's determination for naval reform. The PLA Navy used to attach great importance to coastal defense; it has now put greater significance on deepsea missions. Additionally, China's first domestically built aircraft carrier will soon begin sea trials. More are expected to be built as part of China’s long-term strategy to build maritime power. In 2017, the Navy commissioned at least 16 ships, mostly large combat vessels.

The Navy also conducted a three-day series of exercises in the South China Sea last week. The Chinese military has intensified combat drills since Jinping took office in late 2012. All the Navy's combat ships and submarines now spend around eight months at sea each year, carrying out patrols, drills and other training operations - much longer than before. 

The drills were viewed by many as a message of power to countries with claims to territory in the South China Sea as well as the U.S.

On Thursday, China announced live-fire naval exercises for April 18 in the Taiwan Strait, the first Chinese naval exercise in the waters since September 2015. There has been growing tensions between China, Taiwan and the U.S. after the U.S. announced that it would allow American manufacturers to market submarine technology to Taiwan.