The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy marked its 72nd anniversary on Friday at the country’s biggest naval base, but no new warships were unveiled.
The China Maritime Safety Administration issued a notice on Wednesday saying an area near Yalong Bay in Sanya, in the southern island province of Hainan, would on Friday be closed for six hours to marine traffic due to military activities.
Yalong Bay is home to Asia’s largest nuclear submarine base, a few kilometres from Yulin Naval Base at the southern tip of Hainan.
Two years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who chairs the Central Military Commission, was joined by foreign delegations for the navy’s 70th founding anniversary, in Qingdao. But Xi was not attending this year, a military insider said.
The active Type 055 Renhai class stealth-guided missile destroyer, along with the Type 093 and Type 094 nuclear submarines, were expected to take part in the anniversary event, according to the propaganda video produced by the PLA.
Some social media posts speculated that the navy could announce the commissioning of the Type 075 landing helicopter assault dock and some other advanced ships that had been undergoing sea trials.
“The navy will not make such an arrangement, because safety and quality are the top priorities,” Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang think tank, a Beijing-based military science and technology institute, said. “Today’s Chinese naval shipbuilding industry and sea trials do not need to be rushed for celebrations.”
The third Type 075 amphibious helicopter assault ship was launched in late January. All three have been conducting intensive test voyages.
Two military sources told the South China Morning Post that the platforms were still waiting for the launch of the aircraft they would carry: the naval versions of the Z-8J and Z-20J, which are modified based on the air force’s Z-8 and Z-20 armed helicopters.
China has an aggressive plan to build a real blue-water navy. It aims to build at least six aircraft carrier battle groups by 2035, with the third one expected to be launched later this year.
The PLA Navy is the world’s second-largest after that of the United States. As of the end of 2020, it had about 360 ships and submarines including more than 130 major surface combatants, while the US Navy had 297 ships, according to the US defence department’s 2020 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power.
However, the US Navy’s 4.6 million total tonnes still made it the world’s most powerful blue-water navy, while the PLA Navy had 2 million tonnes in 2019, according to the Centre for International Maritime Security.