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In 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping dressed in a military uniform and had boarded a destroyer of the People’s Liberation Army. He had, that day, recalls CNN, said these words: “Our mission to build a strong navy has never been more urgent than it is today.” Actions followed the declarations and in 2021 China has the largest fleet in the world, ahead of the US Navy.

In 2018, the Chinese shipyard had already started for several years. Xi Jinping’s ambition to strengthen the Chinese army into a fighting force capable of competing with the US military is well known.

In 2015, the People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) Navy had 255 combat ships in its fleet, according to the United States Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). At the end of 2020, it numbered 360, more than 60 more than the US Navy. The People’s Liberation Army will probably have 400 combat ships in four years, still according to ONI forecasts.

“Chinese Navy’s combat strength has more than tripled in just two decades”, read a December report from leaders of the US Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. “Already commanding the world’s largest naval force, the People’s Republic of China builds surface combatant ships, submarines, aircraft carriers, fighter jets, amphibious assault ships, launching submarines of missiles, large coast guards and modern polar icebreakers at an alarming rate. “

The objectives of the United States

China could therefore own 400 ships by 2025. The US shipbuilding plan sets the goal (without a specific date) of a fleet of 355 ships.

However, this does not mean that the US Navy is less powerful, nuance analysts with the US media. In its ranks, the US Navy has more than 330,000 men in active service, against 250,000 for China.

In addition, the US Navy still has more tonnage than China. Larger and heavier ships, such as guided missile destroyers. These ships would give the United States a significant advantage in terms of cruise missile launch capability.

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Bidens blinking red lights: Taiwan, Ukraine and Iran

Russia is menacing Ukraine’s borders, China is sending increasingly ominous signals over Taiwan and Iran is accelerating its uranium enrichment to unprecedented levels.

The big picture: Ukraine, Taiwan and Iran’s nuclear program always loomed large on the menu of potential crises President Biden could face. But over the last several days, the lights have been blinking red on all three fronts all at once.

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Driving the news: Within 24 hours beginning last Sunday, an explosion rocked Iran’s underground nuclear site at Natanz, 25 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defense zone, and Ukraine announced that the number of Russian troops massing in Crimea and on its eastern border had risen to 80,000.

Russia has now assembled enough troops for a “limited military incursion,” CIA director Bill Burns warned Wednesday.

  • Moscow has avoided such overt intervention in Eastern Ukraine since the war there began in 2014, but could strike now in an attempt to push further into Ukrainian territory or secure a source of much-needed water for occupied Crimea.

  • After a flurry of phone calls from Washington to Kyiv to signal support for Ukraine, Biden called Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and proposed a summit to discuss Ukraine and other issues.

  • The state of play: U.S. European Command commander Gen. Tod Wolters said Thursday that there was a “low to medium” risk of a Russian invasion in the next few weeks.

The threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is less urgent, but carries a far greater risk of plunging the U.S. into a direct military confrontation.

  • Beijing has repeatedly threatened to take control of the self-governing island by force. Biden, meanwhile, has continued the longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity,” with the U.S. signaling that it’s prepared to defend Taiwan without explicitly pledging to do so.

  • After Monday’s air incursion, the largest to date, Biden dispatched three former senior U.S. officials to Taiwan, a move Beijing described as “playing with fire.” China reacts furiously to any gesture that treats Taiwan — a flourishing democracy and global tech hub — as an independent country.

  • The state of play: Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, has said there’s a real and rising risk that China will invade in the next several years, but that the more worrying short-term scenario is an “accident or a miscalculation” that leads to escalation.

After the apparent act of Israeli sabotage at Natanz, Iran announced it would begin enriching uranium to 60%, approaching the levels required for a nuclear weapon.

Story continues

  • Both the attack and the Iranian response have threatened to derail the negotiations aimed at salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal.

  • The state of play: The talks resumed on Thursday in Vienna, but back in Tehran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei implied that Iran might soon walk away from the table. If the talks falter and Iran continues to accelerate its enrichment, further flash points are likely.

What to watch: Just about all that’s missing from this cocktail of crises is another North Korean missile test.

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