Over the past few days China's 'Peoples Liberation Army Navy' (PLAN), has been operating the largest Chinese aircraft carrier group by tonnage ever recorded. Eight surface vessels and an unknown number of submarines are on a tour between the main Okinawa Island and the southern Island of Miyakojima; a six hundred kilometre stretch of Japanese Islands that is a thousand kilometres North and East of the Island of Taiwan.
It is an area that includes the U.S. Naval base Sasebo which has been keeping track of the exercises along with the American carrier groups USS Ronald Reagan and USS Abraham Lincoln, both being within a few thousand kilometres of the Sasebo base.
“The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) dispatched an eight-ship carrier group, led by the carrier CNS 'Liaoning' and accompanied by five destroyers, a frigate and a replenishment ship, into the Pacific Ocean via transit of the Miyako Strait Monday, marking the first time since December 2021 that the carrier has operated in the area. “
This action comes a week after the PLAN shadowed the USS Sampson guided missile destroyer through its transit of the Strait of Taiwan, while issuing another of countless warnings to America over its actions in the region.
Although the current Chinese transit of the Japanese Islands has has yet to cross into territorial waters, it would not be the first time the PLAN has manoeuvred into Japanese 12-mile exclusion zones. In 2021 alone the Japanese say that China has wandered into their waters thirty six times, each one requiring an interception by the Japanese Navy.
According to Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter in their book, 'The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s ocean surveillance and coastal defence capabilities',
“Chinese intrusions into Japan’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ), hitherto sporadic, increased rapidly after 1996, when Japan expanded its claims to include the disputed Senkaku Islands (called Diaoyu in Chinese) and other islands in the East China Sea, thus overlapping similar Chinese claims, as well as Okinotorishima in the Philippine Sea, midway between Taiwan and Guam.
Moreover, in addition to numerous deployments of ‘oceanographic research’ and signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection ships, the intrusions have increasingly involved warships, including submarines, sometimes acting aggressively.”
After the American occupation of parts of China ended in 1941, nobody in the American State Department paid much attention to China, at least not until Nixon's visit in 1972. Right after he removed the U.S. Dollar from the gold standard the year before.
As China opened trade with the West, agricultural labour became industrial labour and their austere communist culture began to improve. Old cities modernized and new cities sprang up to house a rapidly growing population. A new way of life had to be figured out by China and it's taken them a scant fifty years to go from being 'The Hidden Kingdom' to challenging American power on the world stage.
And challenge it they are. In 2020 the United States Department of Defence released a report entitled “2020 China Military Power Report" (well worth the read), in which they show China to have a larger navy than the United States. This may not be as troubling as it seems however because, according to The Diplomat foreign affairs magazine, the PLAN ships are on average much smaller than American Navy assets. Similarly the U.S. Navy has (for the time being) many friends in the Pacific that provide berthing and active support, effectively extending the range and size of U.S. Navy task forces in the Pacific theatre.
The Diplomat magazine attempts to soften the DOD reports conclusions by offering up a brief summary of Chinese and American naval assets;
“In order of descending size, the PLAN’s surface force is comprised of;
Two aircraft carriers (soon to be three), one cruiser, 32 destroyers, 49 frigates, 37 corvettes, and 86 missile-armed coastal patrol ships.
In addition, China’s submarine fleet includes 46 diesel-powered attack submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines, and four ballistic missile submarines.
This is further supplemented by the China Coast Guard, which fields roughly 255 coastal patrol ships.
In sum, China has a surface warship fleet of 121 vessels, a submarine fleet of 56 platforms, and another 341 coastal patrol ships.
For its part the United States Navy boasts a surface fleet of ;
11 aircraft carriers, 92 cruisers and destroyers, and 59 small surface combatants and combat logistics ships.
Its submarine fleet is comprised of 50 attack submarines, 14 ballistic missile submarines, and four cruise missile submarines. As such, the United States maintains a surface fleet of about 162 vessels, depending on the inclusion of its small combatants and combat logistics ships, and a submarine fleet of 68 platforms.”
What the article does not discuss (but you can find this in the DOD report linked above) is China's continuing development of its Ground, Air, Space and Naval assets, with a third carrier on the way plus continuous production of advanced naval craft. All this while the American military-industrial complex is losing its battle with political correctness, Sustainable Development and Attrition.
Much of the U.S. Fleet consists of forty-year old (and older) vessels with design service lives of forty years. In 2019 the navy agreed to, “decommission six of its 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers. The 1980s-vintage ships, the largest surface combatants in the U.S. fleet, increasingly are suffering structural problems requiring costly and time-consuming overhauls”
According to an April 02, 2022 Wall Street Journal article, the U.S. Navy is actually shrinking in size and will be for the foreseeable future;
“The Navy’s 2023 budget released last week asks to purchase nine ships while retiring 24, and you don’t need an advanced math degree to understand that will shrink the 298-ship fleet. The Navy’s estimates show the fleet contracting to 280 ships in 2027.
A congressional aide tells us the Navy is essentially double-counting a ship Congress already authorized, so at eight new ships the Navy adds one for every three it would scrap.”
China knows this. China is no longer afraid of the United States and it has a two century-old bone to pick with Japan and the 'west' in general for their brutal wars on the Chinese people and occupations of China over that time. At this writing there is a strong feeling in China that the 'CORONA' virus is an American biological weapon unleashed on the world with DNA-specific modifications designed to target Iranians, Chinese, plus people of African and Indigenous descent.
It is difficult to refute their biological weapons claims because the United States operates bio-weapons labs in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, and the Philippines, all nations which surround China. Similarly now that 'western' biological research labs have been found in the Ukraine and the current U.S. Democrat government implicated by the Biden family dealings with them over the years, the Chinese feeling that they have been attacked does not seem far-fetched.