The world has been given a rare glimpse into China’s nuclear-powered submarine fleet, with State-owned media carrying extensive coverage of the previously mysterious strategic deterrence force.
The unprecedented revealing of the underwater fleet is a demonstration of China’s confidence in its sea-based nuclear strike capability and serves as a deterrent to any attempted provocation amid the changing geopolitical situation, said military observers.
Starting on Sunday, China Central Television carried serial coverage two days in a row on the submarine force of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s Beihai fleet in its flagship news program Xinwen Lianbo.
The People’s Daily, the PLA Daily and the China Youth Daily on Monday all carried front-page stories, features and commentaries on the submarine force, applauding its achievements since the launch of China’s first nuclear-powered submarine in December 1970.
According to the reports, the idea of building a nuclear submarine was initiated by Chairman Mao Zedong in the late 1950s to break the global military powers’ “nuclear blackmailing and monopoly.”
In September 1988, China launched a carrier rocket from a nuclear submarine, becoming the fifth country in the world to have the capability of sea-based nuclear strike.
While striving to improve its strike capability, the submarine force has also maintained a good safety record, with no single nuclear accident reported during the past four decades, said the reports.
The People’s Daily on Monday hailed the submarine force as “a shield preserving world peace and stability” and “a cornerstone to safeguard state sovereignty, security and development interests.”
Du Wenlong, a military expert, told the Global Times on Monday that the latest publicity shows the maturity in the submarine force’s sea-based nuclear strike capability, and implies progress in the development of China’s new generation of submarines.
According to military observers, the submarines shown in the CCTV report and newspaper photos are the old models, which were put into service in the 1980s. It is reported that the navy is replacing them with Jin-class submarines, and a newer model, the Tang-class, is reportedly in development.
Du said in comparison to foreign submarines, China occupies a seat within the leading group but lags behind the US and Russia in terms of the submarine’s noise output and the number of missiles it can carry.
Li Jie, another military expert, shared similar views, noting Chinese submarines still fall behind US and Russian ones, but have better prospects than French and British ones.
The growing capability of the Chinese submarine force is in line with the global emphasis on sea-based nuclear strike capability.
Sea-based nuclear deterrence is more covert, so it gives the countries the capability to launch a counterstrike after their main nuclear bases are destroyed, Li explained, noting its development requires strong comprehensive scientific and technological capabilities.
In addition to the demonstration of more transparency in the military, Li said the revealing of the force is also a deterrent to foreign provocation.
According to reports, during the submarine force’s drills, it has repeatedly been tailed and interrupted by foreign ships and aircraft, including one time in international waters in the West Pacific.
“The changing international situation has caused containment to China’s growth. The US-Japan alliance and US pivot to the Asia-Pacific both apparently target China. The publicity of the submarine force is a warning to any country that attempts to provoke China, telling them whoever makes the first strike should think about the consequences,” Li said.
CCTV commentary said the submarine force has equipped China with a more covert and reliable nuclear counterstrike capability in addition to its intercontinental ballistic missile and strategic bomber, which would make China’s rivals abandon their war attempts for fears of the unbearable price they might have to pay.
– Contributed By Yang Jingjie Global Times