The Rise of the PLA Navy and its Implications for Security in the Asia-Pacific Region

Zhang Chenrong


Over the past year, I have conducted extensive field research in U.S. and Japan on the PLA modernization program’s implications for security in the Asia-Pacific region. My fieldwork and interviews in Japan and the U.S. afforded me significant opportunities to delve deeper into the implications from a variety of perspectives within established security alliances. I visited the aircraft carrier George Washington and meet with CDR. Ted Getschman, the FAO of U.S. Naval Force Japan, in Yokosuka Naval Base. CDR. Getschman was instrumental helping me understand how the Seventh Fleet and the U.S. Navy evaluates of the rise of the PLA Navy.

PIC: With Dr. Jim Foster and Dr. Richard Bush in Brookings Institution

In Hawaii, I spoke with CDR. Brent D. Sadler of the Strategic Synchronization Board of PACOM regarding the U.S.-China military officer exchanges. I learned of the U.S. belief that the officer exchange program is unbalanced due in large part to further restrictions on the Chinese side. Dr. Denny Roy of East-West Center holds the opinion that whether China’s navy modernization will threat the US strategy or not is potentially depends on how China uses its modern navy. If you’re a powerful country the best thing is you’re powerful, and you’re friends are powerful, and everyone else is weak. It’s just logically correct. China is a potential adversary from the point of the view of the United States, it’s not an enemy. It’s a partner, and it’s a potential adversary. It’s different than Japan. Japan is a friend. So for potential adversaries getting stronger, naturally, that’s a concern. As a result, it is difficult to simply say that China having a strong navy threatens the United States.


In September 2014, I visited CSIS, Brookings Institution, and Center for American Progress in Washington DC and discussed my findings and work with with several experts including Dr. Michael Green in CSIS, who agreed that that only China can contain the China. He also discussed strategies on how to avoiding tension between China and its periphery states will become a priority in its political agenda for the region.