Source: Congressional Research Service – The CRS just released an update of a report entitled “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress”.

We have selected the table below showing trends in Chinese and US Navy ships numbers by 2040 (page 11), as well as the abstract below highlighting Chinese enhanced naval activities and operations away from China’s home waters and basing strategy (pages 39 – 41).





Operations Away from Home Waters

Ship Operations

Although China’s navy operates primarily in China’s home waters, Chinese navy ships are conducting increasing numbers of operations away from China’s home waters, including the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the waters surrounding Europe,including the Mediterranean Sea and the Baltic Sea. A November 23, 2019, DOD news report quoted Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, as stating that China’s navy had conducted more global naval deployments in the past 30 months than it had in the previous 30 years.

DOD state that “the PLAN’s ability to perform missions beyond the First Island Chain is modest but growing as it gains more experience operating in distant waters and acquires larger and more advanced platforms. China’s experience in extended range operations primarily comes from
extended task group deployments and its ongoing counterpiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.”

China has been conducting antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden since December 2008 via a succession of more than 40 rotationally deployed naval escort task forces. China’s longdistance naval deployments have also been for making diplomatic port calls and conducting training exercises.

Current or Potential Bases Outside China

China’s distant naval operations are supported in part by China’s military base in Djibouti, where the Gulf of Aden meets the Red Sea. China officially opened the base in August 2017 as its first overseas military base. Observers are now following developments at Cambodia’s Ream naval base, which fronts onto the Gulf of Thailand. DOD states that The PRC’s military facility at Ream Naval Base in Cambodia will be the first PRC overseas base in the Indo-Pacific…. As of early 2021, dredgers were spotted off Cambodia’s Ream naval base, which fronts onto the Gulf of Thailand. DOD states that

The PRC’s military facility at Ream Naval Base in Cambodia will be the first PRC overseas base in the Indo-Pacific…. As of early 2021, dredgers were spotted off Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, where the PRC is funding construction work and deeper port facilities that would be necessary for the docking of larger military ships.

A June 6, 2022, press report stated

China is secretly building a naval facility in Cambodia for the exclusive use of its military, with both countries denying that is the case and taking extraordinary measures to conceal the operation, Western officials said. The military presence will be on the northern portion of Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand….

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2019 that China had signed a secret agreement to allow its military to use the base, citing U.S. and allied officials familiar with the matter…. Over the weekend … a Chinese official in Beijing confirmed to The Washington Post that “a portion of the base” will be used by “the Chinese military…. The two governments have taken pains to mask the presence of the Chinese military at Ream, the official said…. The secrecy around the base appears to be driven primarily by Cambodian sensitivities and concern about a domestic backlash, the second official said.

A June 8, 2022, press report stated, “Cambodian and Chinese officials broke ground on a Beijingfunded expansion of Ream Naval Base on Wednesday [June 8], using the occasion to again reject reports the site will be used by China’s military.”

A March 21, 2023, press report stated:
Construction efforts are rapidly moving forward on a Cambodian naval base that U.S. officials say will secretly host Chinese forces, according to a British news site. At least 25 buildings and two piers have been completed since 2019 at Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand, according to a March 14 report from London-based Naval Technology that cited recent satellite imagery from geospatial intelligence company BlackSky…. BlackSky’s satellite imagery showed that one of the piers measures more than 2,200 feet and has nearly 1,000 feet of usable docking area, according to the Naval Technology report.

The pier extends into waters “deep enough to service aircraft carriers, with columns deployed to a length sufficient to moor these vessels,” according to a Feb. 28 Naval Technology report.

A security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands that was announced by the Solomon Islands in April 2022 has led some observers to express concern that the agreement could eventually lead to, among other things, the establishment of a Chinese naval base in that country. The Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands ruled out that possibility, stating that it would “put our country and our people as targets for potential military strikes.”

In December 2021, it was reported that China may be seeking to establish a military (including naval) base at a port in Equatorial Guinea, a country located on the Atlantic coast of Africa—a location that could enhance China’s ability to conduct naval operations in the Atlantic.

A January 3, 2023, press report states: “China is once again pressuring Argentina to build a naval base in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego province, which would mean opening the door to Antarcticafor Beijing.” “

Read Full Report >>>
PDF >>> CRS Report on China s naval modernization 15 May 2023

Photo © Yuncheng (571) frigate of the People’s Liberation Army Navy deployed in the Gulf of Aden, Murielle Delaporte, Djibouti, 2014