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Reviewed by:
  • China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force
  • L. H. Xavier Demián Soto Zuppa (bio)
Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, William S. Murray and Andrew R. Wilson, editors. China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2007. xvi, 413 pp. Hardcover $45.00, isbn 978-1-59114-326-0.

China's Future Nuclear Submarine Force is a compilation of the papers presented at the 2005 conference on China's new nuclear submarine force at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. The authors are academics who, in many cases, have served as officials on U.S. nuclear submarines (SSN) around the world.

This volume is one of many efforts to assess the consequences that the impressively high and constant Chinese economic growth has shown in the last decades. The most evident results have been the People's Republic of China (PRC) increasing demand for oil and natural gas and its need to ensure its maritime trade to sustain its growing industry. These elements represent many maritime-oriented challenges that the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is striving to overcome by creating a capable submarine-centered navy that would be able to defend its regional interests, as a first phase, and to develop a power projection capacity in a later phase. The modernization of the PLAN has caused great anxiety among China's neighbors and in the United States about what role the U.S. Navy should play in East Asia.

These elements are analyzed and contextualized by the participants of this very specific volume that focuses on the small proportion of Chinese SSNs. It also contains data about the submarine force and the navy as a whole. Furthermore, the book offers a wide range of perspectives that provide readers with the opportunity to make their own judgments based on a meticulous analysis of data from Chinese sources. There is a broad agreement among the participants regarding the Chinese Navy focus on the accelerated development of submarines and that the SSN 093 extends the strategic reach of the Chinese Navy. A consensus was also reached by the participants that further development of the SSN force could represent China's intentions to project broadly into global waters. A consolidation of the conventional/diesel submarine (SS) force would indicate a naval force oriented to a Taiwan crisis scenario or operations in the East Asian littoral. Disagreements emerge in the volume, largely because of the scarcity of reliable information about the PLAN modernization progress, based on speculations about the possible roles of the type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic submarine (SSBN), or the possible strategies that the PRC could follow in the near future.

The book expounds first upon Chinese submarine development and then the dimensions of the new submarine capabilities. It continues with a discussion of current and future SSN operations. Finally, it offers an assessment of Cold War [End Page 494] lessons in order to understand the development of the PRC nuclear submarine force and the implications for the U.S. national security.

The first section is initiated by Eric McVadon's work: an assessment of the current developments in the Chinese Army and its synergies with other new Chinese military capabilities. McVadon believes that China does not want to compromise its brilliant economic and international influence by provoking a crisis with Taiwan or a confrontation with the United States. Thus, a moderated and cautious posture currently prevails. Nevertheless, by enhancing its naval and missile forces to the point that in the case the Taiwan state of affairs goes awry, the PLAN could be available to contest Taiwan and U.S. forces. This causes some concern, not just in Washington and Taipei but in Tokyo as well. The PLAN has matured remarkably in its acquisition of platforms, equipment, and weapons. However, it still needs experience in exercising its forces and developing command and control capabilities, coordinating means and intelligence, and targeting support to make that force operational. It also needs a better-educated officer corps than it now has. If China reaches these objectives, in a strait crisis it could easily subdue Taiwan and delay U.S. intervention. Other factors also have to be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 494-501
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-13
Open Access
No
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