Although the PLAN’s future force structure is largely still a state secret, open intelligence sources have already documented up to 275 ships of both ocean-going and littoral types being completed and commissioned into the PLAN in the past 15 years.
The PLAN’s explosive growth has become a source of major alarm for regional countries in the Indo-Pacific theatre. Chinese claims on the South China Sea (SCS), which it contests as a whole entity more so than individual territories within it, have intensified with provocative actions conducted not just by Chinese naval units but also by its paramilitarised Coast Guard and commercial fishing fleets. With the increase in blue-water fleet strength, China stands to gain a much bigger continuous and assertive presence in Indo-Pacific waters and with it the ability to coerce and overwhelm regional navies from conducting their own maritime patrols.
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