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China Reform Monitor - No. 1318

China's maritime build-up;
Autonomous shipping takes shape

Edited by Joshua Eisenman
March 1, 2018

February 7:

The Caihong-4, China's new all-weather strike-drone series developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., has just finished a six-day live-fire drill to test its bombing and precision targeting capabilities using various types of ammunition,
the Asia Times reports. "The capacity and variety of its ordnance payload indicate the CH-4 can conduct effective air strikes on more targets, from longer distances with nimble, faster reaction," the report said. According to its developer, the CH-4 has better basic performance than does U.S.-based General Atomics' MQ-1 Predator, an industry leader, and is more competent in reconnaissance, surveillance, and strike missions.

February 11:

official People's Daily published a two-page feature titled "Time is ripe for a maritime great power," detailing the naval buildup that has taken place since Xi Jinping took power in 2012. Some developing countries in the Belt and Road Initiative suffer from turmoil and terrorism and require a greater PLA presence to safeguard Chinese personnel and interests, it said. "More overseas bases will be built in the future to assist the navy to conduct operations globally. There is no need to conceal the ambition. China has every jurisdiction to boost its navy now that it's already a global power and the Djibouti base won't be the only one," said retired PLA admiral Xu Guangyu. China opened its first overseas base in Djibouti last year, and Pakistan's deepwater port at Gwadar appears to be next, Asia Times reports.

February 12:

China's newest J-20 fourth-generation stealth fighter is now officially combat-read,
the Hindu reports. Intended as China's answer to U.S. F-22 and F-35 stealth fighter jets, the J-20 can conduct both air-to-air combat and ground attacks. "The stealth jets will improve the air force's comprehensive fighting ability and enable it to better safeguard China's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity," a spokesman for the PLA Air Force told Xinhua. Long-range air-to-air missile mounted on the J-20 could threaten the U.S. aerial refueling tankers and early warning and command and control aircraft. The J-20 will "engage with rivals in the future who dare to provoke China in the air. In the past, only the U.S. and its allies like Japan were capable of arming stealth fighter jets. But now, their monopoly in this region has been broken by China's J-20," Song Zongping wrote in a post on the PLA's website.

February 14:

China has started building the world's largest test site to develop a series of unmanned shipping systems for both military and civilian purposes near Zhuhai, Guangdong,
Xinhua reports. Unmanned or "autonomous" ship technology allows the craft to be remotely controlled. It could revolutionize the shipping industry by cutting labor costs significantly and creating more cargo space on ships. Islands in the test zone will be equipped with GPS, sonar, communication instruments or photoelectric components to guide ships and boats,
according to the China's Science and Technology Daily. This year China will launch its own autonomous vessel, the Jindouyun, for ferrying goods along rivers and to nearby islands.

Related Categories: Missile Defense; Democracy & Governance; Military; China; China and East Asia Program

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