Chinese PresidentXi Jinping paid a special visit April 9 to a submarine and destroyer base at Sanya in the southern maritime province of Hainan in what is viewed as a major boost to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy’s morale and ambition.
“I want you all to combine your personal ideals with the ‘dream to strengthen the military,’” Mr. Xi told PLA navy personnel, using one of his dream-inspired catchphrases such as “the Chinese dream” and “the dream to revive the Chinese nation.”
China recently began a warship-building surge. At the Sanya base, Mr. Xi rode an open-top jeep and inspected 11 new warships anchored at the port, most of them Type 054A destroyers equipped with China’s best anti-submarine sensors and weapons.
Also docked at Sanya is China’s largest naval warship, the Jinggangshan amphibious dock landing ship. Its sole purpose is to wage warfare in an island-taking operation or invasion.
The Jinggangshan is China’s only warship on which women are allowed to serve. Currently, 20 female sailors are deployed aboard the Jinggangshan on a test basis, including five ethnic Uyghurs a Turkish Muslim ethnic group that lives in an autonomous region in western China.
Mr. Xi appeared greatly amused by the female sailors onboard the ship, and paid special attention to the five Uyghur women as he inspected the vessel.
The highlight of Mr. Xi’s trip was his visit to an unidentified new submarine that analysts say was most likely a Jin-class Type 94 nuclear ballistic sub.
China is the world’s only country whose submarine force is striving to match the number and strength of U.S. Navy subs. China views its submarine force a key deterrent against the United States and a vital offensive arm of its strategic naval power.
Ocean key to China’s revival
Naval domination of the disputed South China Sea is key to “the great revival of the Chinese nation,” the commander of the South China Sea Fleet said in an interview this month in the PLA Daily, the official military newspaper.
A major propaganda theme in Communist China is variably termed “the Chinese dream” or “the dream to strengthen the military.” But the exact meaning of the term “strengthen the military” is not clear, and that has prompted Washington for many years to prod Chinese leaders to clarify their intentions for China’s military buildup.
Adm. Jiang Weilie made his feelings clear in claiming maritime territories that also are owned by other countries in the South China Sea.
“When facing the vast South China Sea, you will see that our country’s maritime territory looks like a flaming torch, ” the admiral said in an April 9 special interview with the online edition of the PLA Daily. “I want to stress that torch image, let the torch lighten up our China Dream, our Dream to Strengthen the Military, and our Ocean Dream in the hearts of our sailors and our fellow countrymen.”
From March 17 to April 1, Adm. Jiang commanded a 16-day live-fire naval expeditionary drill in the South China Sea and the western Pacific. It was the first time the PLA navy dispatched a large contingent to circumnavigate the disputed territories.
The Chinese flotilla sailed to the sea’s southernmost point the James Shoal, which is claimed by China, Malaysia and Taiwan. It then followed an eastern course past the so-called first island chain, which includes parts of Japan, Taiwan, Borneo and the Philippines.