China Military Expansion Plans Revealed as New Warships Launched

Chinese plans to expand the country's regional power projection have been revealed by leaked internal military documents, indicating that Beijing is expanding its armed forces to protect its interests around the globe.

The documents came to light as the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy launched two advanced warships designed for surface warfare, long-range air defense and anti-submarine operations, as the country's naval modernization continues apace.

The leaked document—obtained by the Kyodo News agency—was published by the Chinese Central Military Commission in February. As detailed by The Japan Times, it notes increasing friction in the East and South China Sea and heightened tensions with the U.S. and neighboring states.

Soldiers stand in formation at a People’s Liberation Army base in Hong Kong, on June 30, 2017. An internal military document suggests the Chinese “desperately need a comprehensive protection of our own security around the globe.” REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

The PLA navy is leading the way for China's military overhaul, transitioning from a large but obsolete fleet to an advanced world leader. It recently launched its first domestically produced aircraft carrier—the Type 001A—a major engineering achievement and symbol of Beijing's ambition.

The two Type 055 destroyers launched on July 3 fit this wider strategic plan. Both vessels are equipped with similar technology to U.S. destroyers, such as multifunction phased array radars used to track the most advanced warplanes. The ships may well accompany the Type 001A on future deployments.

"As we open up and expand our national interests beyond borders, we desperately need a comprehensive protection of our own security around the globe," the document reads, suggesting the military's strategy must look beyond coastal defense.

Such an approach will allow China to "more effectively create a situation, manage a crisis, contain a conflict, win a war, defend the expansion of our country's strategic interests in an all-round fashion and realize the goals set by the party and Chairman Xi," the report continues.

Related: How does China's navy compare to America's?

The authors argue that "strong military might is important for a country to grow from being big to being strong," pointing to the U.S., Russia and Japan as examples. The document stresses the importance of avoiding the Thucydides Trap—when a rising power comes into conflict with a more established foe.

A strong military is the best way to "escape the obsession that war is unavoidable between an emerging power and a ruling hegemony," the document suggests. While wary of direct confrontation, U.S. is referred to as "a slower vehicle on a curve"—i.e., in decline—and the review says a potent military is the springboard to surpass it.

The authors also attack the "antagonistic blocs of the Western world" that it alleges are supporting separatist movements in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. The document notes that a strong armed force will allow the Communist Party to ride out such domestic challenges, assuming it is kept under the close control of the party.