China's military capabilities

China moves to develop its naval capabilities.

    China's military build-up is concerning regional countries and international observers [AFP]

    Since the Ming Dynasty, China's military prowess has been based on its land forces.

    At around two and a quarter million, its standing army is still by far the world's largest.

    But over the past two decades, the People's Liberation Army Navy has been undergoing rapid modernisation. Some analysts believe it is the biggest shift in the region's power balance since the Second World War.

    Estimates vary, but China's navy is at least 250,000 strong including about 56,000 marines. It is thought to be expanding those numbers although the level of training has been called into question.

    Nuclear submarines

    One of the issues that has concerned China's neighbours, as well as Western countries, is the development of new classes of nuclear submarine - one long-range submarine, and another capable of firing ballistic missiles.

    The Chinese government has been on an international naval shopping spree, buying submarines and destroyers from Russia as well as developing and building its own new sophisticated vessels.

    But what has really raised eyebrows is China's announcement in March that it intends to build up to six aircraft carriers, commissioning the first in six years.

    China says the need for these new sea-going weapons is to expand its domestic defences. What worries many other countries is that submarines and aircraft carriers have historically been used in offensive roles.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip has done the world an extraordinary service by exposing the racist hypocrisy of "Western civilisation".

    China will determine the future of Venezuela

    China will determine the future of Venezuela

    There are a number of reasons why Beijing continues to back Maduro's government despite suffering financial losses.