China is slowing its plan to build a six-carrier fleet by putting construction of two aircraft carriers on hold due to technical challenges and high costs.
The National Interest reported on Dec. 9 that military insiders revealed that plans for a fifth carrier have been stalled.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that military insiders told the paper that “technical challenges and high costs had put the brakes on the program.” The move would effectively scuttle the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) strategy of using redundancy for its northern, eastern and southern fleets to push back the American Carrier Strike Groups that now freely transit the Pacific.
The six-carrier Chinese deployment strategy was seen as a direct confrontation with the U.S. Navy’s 11 deployable nuclear-powered carriers, plus 9 helicopter assault ships that can launch state-of-arts F-35 configured Naval deck take-off and Marine jump jets.
During three decades of economic engagement with the United States, China’s GDP grew from $347 billion in 1989 to $12.2 trillion in 2018. But relatively unnoticed until recently, China’s military budget spiked from $19.3 billion to $250 billion during the same period. China’s military spending came in second place behind the $649 billion U.S. budget, and far above Saudi Arabia’s $67.6 billion budget, according to a report by Defense News.
China moved from spending mostly on defense to dramatically focusing on offensive weapons when Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced in April 2016 that he had taken personal command of China’s armed forces, including the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In addition to his role as chairman of the Central Military Commission that oversaw the army, Xi took direct control as head of the new Joint Operations Command Center, effectively making him the sole PLA operational commander in time of war.