Cruising for a bruising amid China’s naval build-up

United States is facing choppy seas as a new shipbuilding superpower aims to rule the waves

China has become a shipbuilding superpower that threatens to turn the tide in a conflict with the United States and its allies.

Even though the economy is creaking, the sheer scale of the country’s industrial complex is staggering from state-of-the-art manufacturing to its shipyards.

Already China has the world’s largest navy with a fleet of more than 355 vessels, a US Naval Institute report revealed. Yet that figure is expected to grow to 440 ships by 2030.

“China emerged as a global power by turning itself into the world’s factory floor,” The Wall Street Journal pointed out earlier this week.

“It is expanding that power, and its military might, [by] becoming the world’s shipyard,” the WSJ said, adding that “while Chinese shipyards are thriving and primed to build at wartime rates, US shipbuilding is in disarray.”

Sea of red flags:

  • “More than half of the world’s commercial shipbuilding output came from China last year,” The Wall Street Journal stressed, adding:
  • That made “it the top global ship maker by a wide margin.” 
  • “The once-prolific shipyards of the West have shriveled.” 
  • “Europe accounts for just 5% of the world’s output, while the US contributes next to nothing.” 
  • “Most of what China doesn’t build comes from South Korea and Japan.” 

China’s shipbuilding capacity is 232 times greater than the US.

US Navy intelligence leak

Delve deeper: Last year, China’s National People’s Congress announced an annual military budget of roughly 1.55 trillion yuan or US$224.79 billion. 

Hold on: Yet the true figure is likely to be more than triple that as tensions rise in Taiwan’s territorial waters, and in the East and South China Seas.

Between the lines: “They [Pentagon intelligence officials] came out and said the real Chinese budget, in terms of [the] military, is probably close to about $700 billion,” US Republican lawmaker Dan Sullivan said before tweeting the number.

Big picture: A large slice of that is going to shipyards and Chinese military contractors. “China’s shipbuilding capacity is 232 times greater than the US,” Business Insider reported, citing a US Navy intelligence leak

China Factor comment: Derelict shipyards are dotted around the US, a testament to corrosive “deindustrialization” policies. One has to ask, has the ship already sailed?