World

Beijing pushing to cut gap with US navy

Chinese navy may get more from defence budget

BEIJING China's navy is likely to secure significant new funding in the upcoming defence budget as Beijing seeks to check US dominance of the high seas and step up its projection of power around the globe.

The navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.

Now, with US President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the US Navy.

"It is opportunity in crisis," said an Asian diplomat, of China's recent naval moves.

"China fears Mr Trump will turn on them eventually..."

Beijing does not give a breakdown for how much it spends on the navy, and the overall official defence spending figures it gives - 954.35 billion yuan (S$195 billion) for last year - likely understates its investment, according to diplomats.

NAVY CHIEF

Last month, China appointed a new navy chief, Admiral Shen Jinlong, to lead that push.

He has enjoyed a meteoric rise and is close to Chinese President Xi Jinping, sources said.

Recent Chinese navy missions included visits to Gulf states, where the US has traditionally protected sea lanes, and to the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, in what the state-run website StrongChina called Admiral Shen's "first show of force against the US, Japan and Taiwan".

The Chinese navy, once generally limited to coastal operations, has developed rapidly under Mr Xi's ambitious military modernisation.

It commissioned 18 ships last year, including missile destroyers, corvettes and guided missile frigates, according to its state media.

Still, it significantly lags behind the US, which operates 10 aircraft carriers to China's one, the Soviet-era Liaoning.

- REUTERS

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