This figure comes from a leaked briefing slide from the US Navy. A spokesperson for the Navy confirmed to Fox News Digital that the slide was authentic.
It shows that while American shipyards currently have a capacity of under 100,000 tons, the capacity of Chinese shipyards exceeds 23.2 million tons.
The spokesperson said that while the slide does offer some insight into the communist country's shipbuilding capacity, it should not be interpreted as a thorough assessment of the Chinese commercial shipbuilding industry. Instead, it was part of a larger overall brief outlining strategic competition.
China has been prioritizing enhancing its naval capabilities. It currently boasts the biggest navy in the world and had more than 355 vessels in its fleet as of 2021. Moreover, projections from the Pentagon estimate their fleet will reach 400 ships by 2025 and 440 ships by 2030. The U.S., in contrast, has a fleet of just 296 ships.
However, while the Chinese fleet may be the world's biggest, the U.S. Navy is broadly considered the most powerful one in the world. In fact, Mark Esper, the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time, said in 2020 that even if America stopped building ships today, China would take years to reach a point where their naval power would be comparable to ours. This is because the U.S. Navy has superior technological abilities and experience.
In a speech at a Rand Corporation event in 2020, Esper noted: "Ship numbers are important, but they don't tell the whole story."
Once thought of as being a “green-water navy” that tended to stick close to its shores, China has been making its intention to expand its reach clear. It has launched a series of ambitious vessels, including amphibious assault ships and large guided missile destroyers.
China has recently been flexing its naval muscles in the region, particularly around Taiwan, which Beijing claims is its territory. China has said it will seize it one day, using force if necessary. The Defense Ministry of Taiwan has reported increasing incursions by Chinese ships and war planes. In one 24-hour period earlier this month, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry detected 10 naval vessels and 68 aircraft around the island. One of the vessels involved was China’s Shandong aircraft carrier.
Some analysts believe the move is part of a broader effort by China to counter American influence in the Asia-Pacific region, noting that China carried out its biggest war games around Taiwan following a trip to Taipei last August by Nancy Pelosi when she was still the Speaker of the House. Another military exercise was carried out this April simulating encirclement of the island.
China has also been looking to shore up places it can refuel its blue-water ships and replenish provisions when it is far from the mainland. Part of this push for port access has seen them helping construct a naval base in Cambodia and looking for military outposts even further away, such as on the Atlantic coast of Africa. They currently only have one operational overseas naval base, on the Horn of Africa in Djibouti.
A report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies warned: “The PLA’s expanding global footprint and corresponding ability to conduct a wider range of missions, including limited warfighting, carries major risks for the United States and its allies in the Indo-Pacific as well as other operational theaters.”
Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. has warned that the world needs to stand up to the territorial expansion China is attempting in the South China Sea, calling the country a bully and accusing them of sending “maritime militia” boats and infringing on their territory. He believes they won’t stop until they control “the whole South China Sea.”
Sources for this article include: