January 19, 2012: The U.S. Navy has come up with a plan to deal with a growing Chinese Navy, and a shrinking U.S. Navy. By the end of the decade, China will have 70 destroyers and frigates, and 75 submarines. Most of these ships will be of recent construction. The U.S. will have 127 cruisers, destroyers, frigates (LCS), and 67 submarines. Only about half the U.S. ships will be facing China, while almost all the Chinese ships will be in East Asia. The American ships will be older, larger, and manned by more competent crews.
To overcome this, the U.S. is forming a naval alliance. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have significant fleets. Moreover, these nations also have large and growing air forces. This makes tiny Singapore, another American ally, a player in this area. The U.S. also has its aircraft carriers, although only two or three would be in East Asia at any time. China is building a carrier force and might have two or three by the end of the decade.
That spotlights another American edge: experience. The Chinese realize it will take over a decade to master the effective use of aircraft carriers. So these ships will be a more critical factor in two decades. The U.S. still has the edge in ship and crew quality and will also take another decade or so of hard work to close the gap on. That is, if China keeps up its efforts to build modern ships and train crews and aviators. This is expensive and China may have other emergencies demanding more attention and cash.
For example, the one-child policy is causing China's huge population to age rapidly. In two decades China will have huge expenses just providing minimal living standards to over a hundred million elderly with no children, or one child, to look after them. China will also be suffering a huge labor shortage and the after effects of decades of ignoring pollution issues. In two decades, sustaining a first rate navy might not seem as important.
Of course, South Korea and Japan have a similar aging problem, but these two nations are much wealthier and are already addressing the problem. But for the moment, the trends are in China's favor, and that is something that has to be dealt with.