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China vs Australia naval power: Which one is stronger?

  • 24 Sep 2021

The escalation of tensions between Australia and China amid the AUKUS crisis turned the spotlight on their naval fleets.

A new deal to supply Australia with nuclear submarines, the U.S. and its allies are becoming growingly assertive in their approach toward a rising China. (AP) ( Jay Allen / AP )

The US-Australia-UK defence cooperation pact has rubbed China the wrong way as the Asian power warned the trio of displaying a "Cold War" mentality and threatening peace in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Upon the pact, the US and UK agreed to support Australia in developing and expanding nuclear-power submarines, a move Beijing sees as a potential trigger for accelerating  nuclear arms race amongst the global powers.  

''China sees this as a return to the ideologically based politics of the Cold War. And it seems the Chinese government may have a point. The AUKUS suggest that a guaranteed US and UK presence in the area, aided by Australia’s proximity, will lead to “security”.'’ Sarah Lieberman, Senior Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University commented.

According to Ali Wyne, analyst at Eurasia Group, the military balance of power will be more contested with AUKUS considering geopolitical dynamics.

These recent developments sparked curiosity over naval power dynamics between China and Australia.

As the largest navy in the world, China tops in naval power with over 777 fleet strength (AP)(AP)

Chinese fleet

Having the world's third strongest army, China tops in naval power with over 777 fleet strength. 

It has approximately 350 ships including 130 major surface combatants, a 2020 Pentagon report indicated.

It also comprises 50 destroyers, 72 corvettes, 123 patrol vessels and 36 mine warfare. 

The country’s submarine capacity is 79, granting China the first place in the world. The navy has developed 12 nuclear subs over the past decade and a half, according to the US Defence Department report.  

The Jin-class nuclear subs are capable of launching ballistic missiles and are considered as ''China's first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent.”

The AUKUS deal will likely grant at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. (AP)(AP)

Australian fleet

Ranked 19th among the 140 most powerful armies in the world, Australia placed 47th in terms of naval power. 

The Australian fleet has 48 naval units which include six mine warfares, 3 destroyers and 13 patrol vessels. It has no corvettes on its fleet. 

The fleet has half as many submarines as China. It does not currently have any nuclear subs.  

With this number, Australia barely covers only 6 percent of China's fleet. But, the AUKUS agreement will likely contribute to the country significantly as the US and UK will focus on finding an adequate way to deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.



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