China To Build World's Largest Marine Surveillance Ship
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

China To Build World's Largest Marine Surveillance Ship


The Chinese-language newspaper Beijing Daily reported this week that China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) has signed contracts to build a 10,000 ton marine surveillance ship, which would be the largest such vessel in the world. The ship will be built by the CSIC’s “704 Research Institute,” along with another 4,000 ton vessel. English language sites Global Times and South China Morning Post also picked up on the story.

Notably, the current owner of the world’s largest marine surveillance ship is Japan, China’s rival in a bitter territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japan’s Shikishima, which was commissioned in 1992, displaces 7,175 tons. Japan recently added a second Shikishima-class patrol ship, dubbed Akitsushima, which launched in July 2012 and was officially commissioned in November 2013. According to Navy Recognition, both ships are 150 meters long and are equipped with Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannons and two M61 Vulcan cannons, with the latter being used as part of a remote weapons system.

China’s new marine surveillance ship is one more piece of the tit-for-tat escalation in the East China Sea. As of now, China’s largest surveillance vessel, the Haijian-50 (haijian” literally meaning “marine surveillance”), displaces around 4,000 tons. The new marine surveillance vessel would dwarf that, while also responding to Japan’s recent construction of a new Shikishima-class ship. Given that the Haijian-50 is often assigned to patrol the East China Sea, we can assume the new 10,000 ton ship will be patrolling the same waters. Still, there’s no detail yet as to what sort of weaponry will be outfitted aboard the new Chinese patrol ships.

The plans for a new maritime surveillance vessel are part of larger build up of China’s fleet. Back in 2012, Xinhua reported that China was planning to add 36 patrol vessels to the China Marine Surveillance fleet by mid-2014. In the period from 1999 to 2011, according to Xinhua, China added 13 new 1,000 ton patrol ships and five helicopters to the same fleet.

The building of a new maritime surveillance ship will receive less attention than the reports that China is constructing a second aircraft carrier, but the patrol vessel might be more important in the long run. China’s endgame for the disputed regions in the South China Sea and East China Sea relies less on the PLA Navy than on China Marine Surveillance (CMS), a law enforcement agency under the State Ocean Administration. Deploying maritime surveillance ships allows China to exercise control in these regions without officially crossing the line into militarism. For example, the new Hainan fishing regulations, which caused an uproar by requiring foreign vessels to seek permission to fish in a huge swatch of the South China Sea, will likely be enforced by CMS, not the navy. The more vessels CMS has to work with, the more efficiently China can implement its strategy.

My colleague Zachary Keck wrote, in the context of East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, about China “waging lawfare” — exerting control of disputed regions by increasing its de facto control. Maritime patrols are a major part of this effort, and the new ship will increase China’s surveillance capabilities. Whether the new ship is deployed in the East China Sea or the South China Sea, it will provide both a psychological and a tactical boost to China’s maritime patrols.

January 25, 2014 at 09:50

I wonder if big ships like this would dare to take on Russian Navy when they shoot and blow up chinese like rats? Nope, of course not, china and chinese would not dare to take on someone who can shoot back. More hot air and bragging ==> my ships are bigger so we are better, right? Ha!!!

January 25, 2014 at 15:03

Why would China want to fight Russia? Russia and China, for all of their differences, have more in common these days than not.

January 26, 2014 at 06:56

China won’t raise a stink about the Russians blowing up & sinking the Chinese cargo ship ‘New Star’ nor raised any issues when the Russians fired shots at Chinese fishing boats in their waters in 2012 killing a Chinese national because the Chinese still rely on Russian oil and arms procurement.

What’s China going to do, they need Russian jet engines to keep their air force flying, need Russian SU-35s, and Lada attack submarines for that matter. China has no choice but to Kow Tow to the Russians if they want to get the hardware from the Ruskies.

China also doesn’t do anything when North Korea siezed Chinese fishing boats and demanded hostage money which the China paid! Now the Chinese have told their fisherman and even fisheries enforcement ships to stay clear of North Korean waters.

Any Chinese that still believes that they have a great relationship with Russia or North Korea had better wake up to the realization that even they don’t trust the Chinese as far as they can throw them!

The fact that Russia is basing two new NATO built assault carriers at Vladiovostok should be the first clue that they don’t trust China. The second, is the fact the Russians are planning to base their most advanced fighters and attack helos in the Far East rather than in Europe is the other clue of how great Sino-Russo ties are folks!

The only thing I’d say the Russians and Chinese have in common is to try and undermine the United States. Other than that, they would probably get along as closely as North Sudan & South Sudan gets along with each other today!

When it comes to Russia & North Korea, China is the Kow Tow Kingdom in my opinion!

January 25, 2014 at 02:55

Have you guys ever watched the ‘whale war’? The bigger ship can bump smaller ship, and get away with it.

In this context, China wants to be able to win a bumping-confrontation (about as close to fight, without actually fighting it) for couple reasons,

1. If China starts contesting the Diaoyu water, without itself retchingup the antes, or sending in war ships; it must win the bumping contest. If it does not win the bumping contest, then China is forced to escalate to military solution, which is a worse choice. So, expect both sides starting building outrageous sized ‘bumper ships’, since none of then wants to escalate to mil-to-mil confrontation.

2. If China wants to take Diaoyu without US mil. involvement, it could send in one of these ‘whales’ full of non-mil personnels (say, civilian government workers, or just plain civilians, including women and children) and escorted by a bunch of large ‘bumper ships.’ So, it kinda put the onus on the US and Japanese trigger-pullers: do I shoot, or not? Or, once they got there, then what?

Still, personally, I caution China not to think that they can think (or out-think) for the Americans and Japanese, because they might not play ball that way.

jim dandy
January 25, 2014 at 11:19

tteng if china puts anyone on those islands ,the war starts

January 26, 2014 at 01:11

How about another asymmetric tactic,

(I noticed this when I observe my wife watching the Chinese dating show), There are a lot of Russians expat ( all of them are integrated well into the Chinese society, judging from their fluency in mandarin). What if China paid a bunch of them to be on the cruise (with CCTV world wide real time broadcasting)? Do you shoot the Russians?

January 26, 2014 at 07:28

First of all, I think some people watch too much TV!

Chinese fishing boat Captains for one, as the last time I recall, a Chinese fishing boat driver killed himself and three other crew members when he tried to ram a South Korean fisheries ship in ROK waters back in 2011 or 2012. Chinese boat Captian lost everything when his ship capsized and sank within minutes of trying that stupid tactic.

If Chinese boat drivers want to drive like Chinese car owners, then the Pacific ocean just became more dangerous in my opinion. It’s like downtown Beijing traffic crashes & pedestrians getting run over by Chinese drivers except it will be in the ECS & SCS!

thrung suc phang
January 24, 2014 at 17:52

those chinese are the modern demons of this world. I ask you all country to unite against this china agression specially those of weaker country such the philippines snd us vietnam to grab those islets from spratly. do your best not to buy chinese products. please see links below I read recently from philippines site how china mongoloids plan

January 24, 2014 at 16:38

I think most of the commentators here have missed the point in their rush to prove just how dismissive they can be. In their desire to appear as an objective and slightly bemused and more adult onlooker, they chalk this up as a tit-for-tat exercise in an immaturity contest when, in fact, it’s a bit more than that.

China’s not looking for a marine surveillance vessel anymore than the Soviets were looking for cops when they increased the number of troops under the control of the Interior Ministry. China is looking for a full blown warship by another name.

There’s a famous line from the movie “Jaws” wherein the mayor tells Brody, and I’m paraphrasing here, if you yell “barracuda”, no one pays you any attention. If you yell “shark”, you have a full blown panic on your hands.

In this case, China is yelling barracuda.

China is deliberately ratcheting back the rhetoric while increasing its presence and capabilities. A “marine surveillance vessel” sounds a lot less threatening than saying “a PLA Navy destroyer.” China is, in effect, giving itself greater military capabilities in the area without committing its military.

And if observers would stop and think for just one second before committing their knee jerk reactions to print, I could avoid having to point out the obvious so often…

Oro Invictus
January 25, 2014 at 00:13

You know, you can just come out and say you were referring to me, right? Overt implications like these are wildly passive-aggressive; it’s beneath you, TDog.

In any case, the playing of groups’ insecurities against one another is hardly “tit-for-tat”, which simply refers to childish competitions of reciprocity. That said, I am well aware that, if one looks at these concepts esoterically, said competition I described may fit under the paradigm of “tit-for-tat”; however, this sort of wide-net application would also put all of modern warfare and diplomacy under it.

January 25, 2014 at 03:59

Oro Invictus,

You were hardly alone in missing the point.

Oro Invictus
January 25, 2014 at 06:25

Very well, who else were you referring to here, then?

At the time of the posting, there was only one other who could be described as described as “dismissive”, and that person (Manila Boy) hardly fits the with the descriptors of “[attempting to be] objective” or “bemused”. So let’s not play games, it just makes you look disingenuous.

You’re attempting to portray my disdain for international grandstanding (which, by the way, is hardly incompatible with your take in regards to quasi-furtive deployment of warships) as some knee-jerk reaction, which is nothing but a grievous misrepresentation of my words. Unless you’re going to argue that this situation in the ECS is not laden with elements of insecurity or other forms of egoism, then whatever you write as a “refutation” of my points is nugatory. It is you, in this discourse, who is missing the point (by the way, lovely bit of implication there, attempting to portray that my alleged misapprehension of the situation was an accepted matter [by mentioning it in passing sans justification]).

I’m not sure what’s going on on your end, to affect these ad hominem attacks coupled with such passive-aggressiveness, but it’s more than a little disappointing (noting I say that absent any sort of condescension). If you want to debate the particular dynamics of conflicting national egos, that’s fine; however, don’t misrepresent what I say and don’t attempt to attack my person. Otherwise, I would recommend saying nothing, as I’d rather not have my image of you as one of the more civil posters here tarnished.

January 25, 2014 at 15:02

Oro Invictus,

I was also referring to Ms. Tiezzi. She referred to this as “tit-for-tat” when it is anything but.

Oro Invictus
January 26, 2014 at 07:06

And the requisite bemusement in her article is… Where?

It’s clear that you’re not going to address my points, such that I don’t see this dialogue’s continuance leading anywhere good; let’s just chalk this up as a hiccup in your relatively sterling record of propriety and end things off here.

January 26, 2014 at 07:56

That’s OK! When people hear “US Navy” in Asia, it moves most of the people in those countries towards the feeling of calm & security.

Mention “Chinese navy” in Asia and most will agree they would panic as if yelling “Shark” as the Chinese navy is seen representing nothing but chaos and insecurity!

FYI, China is already seen as a threat to most of her neighbors today, Tdog! That’s why most nations are buying up anti-ship missiles to sink those PLA-N ships if China miscalculates.

January 24, 2014 at 12:24

well, the Chinese version is a multi-function ship…that can also be used to carry soldiers. according to this article:

a significant chunk of the populace in China now views war between China and Japan as inevitable, not because of economic rivalry but because: “…Japan and America settled their conflict, he [the senior PRC businessman at the davos forum] explained, and as a result, the fighting stopped. But China and Japan have never really put the war behind them.

to elucidate more:
“he said that many in China believe that China can accomplish its goals — smacking down Japan, demonstrating its military superiority in the region, and establishing full control over the symbolic islands — with a surgical invasion.

In other words, by sending troops onto the islands and planting the flag.

The Chinese professional suggested that this limited strike could be effected without provoking a broader conflict. The strike would have great symbolic value, demonstrating to China, Japan, and the rest of the world who was boss. But it would not be so egregious a move that it would force America and Japan to respond militarily and thus lead to a major war.”

yes, Chinese public opinion and military planning is now predicated on the idea that it can invade the territory of other nations without somehow engaging the alliance system that ties said nations to the U.S. to which the response of everyone else was:

“”Do you realize that this is absolutely crazy?”

“Do you realize that this is how wars start?”

“Do you realize that those islands are worthless pieces of rock… and you’re seriously suggesting that they’re worth provoking a global military conflict over?”

to which the answer was:

“The Chinese professional said that, yes, he realized that. But then, with conviction that further startled everyone, he said that the islands’ value was symbolic and that their symbolism was extremely important. ”

Shinizo Abe has also said that China and Japan are in a situation similar to the run-up to world war 1….

So, ladies and gentlemen, it’s now not an issue of IF the PRC will pull off something terribly stupid, but WHEN; as in within the next few years “when”…

or in other words: congratulations, this is what happens when you let a revanchist, self-indoctrinating power rise to the fore, with absolutely no consequences to its repeated pushing of the envelope…

January 24, 2014 at 12:52

to continue,

more frighteningly, however, and considering that Japan and China signed an agreement in 1978 to put the war behind them (, it means that the CPC has actually begun to believe its own bull. Yep. expect “fireworks” shortly.

Oro Invictus
January 25, 2014 at 00:00

Ah, yes, I read this anecdotal piece as well; out of curiosity, do you read Sinocism? It was through that that I found said piece myself.

January 25, 2014 at 02:02

@ Oro Invictus

unfortunately, no, i don’t read Sinocism; i found the article via the Economist, linking over from Matt’s “1913 Intel,” which happens to be a rabidly right-wing and thoroughly hawkish site; useful for articles such as that anecdote, but awful for everything else, especially how he rags on anyone who doesn’t think the end of the world is nigh…

January 24, 2014 at 10:40

If 7000 tonnes can field 2 – 35mm and 2 – 20mm gatlings then 10000 tonnes could probably take 2 – 57mm and 2 – 30mm gatlings. Within the bounds of naval warfare this ship is a game changer

January 24, 2014 at 10:37

China has tested ICMB (DF-31) with a range of over 8,000km. Tensions once again rising between China and USA over this.

It is better for China to have more Surveillance ships than one large ship.

Manila Boy
January 24, 2014 at 09:06

I bet it will have even bigger water cannons. Typical Chinese lack of imagination. They either build bigger or more.

January 24, 2014 at 06:54

Maybe is a sub tender in disguise just like the Germans used during WW2.

Oro Invictus
January 24, 2014 at 06:15

Uh… Huh. Ignoring that a ship of that size is basically useless for “Marine Surveillance” (or, at least, the form of it Beijing intends to implement) and, at best, would function as a sort of “hub” for smaller craft and the like (which would only really be useful if attempting to project control over discrete points far away), I’m just curious: At what point are the powers-that-be in this region simply going to come out and build massive replicas of male genitalia? You know, cut out the pretence that these sort of international competitions are anything more than large-scale “Richard”-measuring contests?

At the very least, they should name the ships appropriately, such as the “Insecurity” or (perhaps more relevant if it’s a PRC ship) the “Little Emperor”.

Jen Whitten
January 24, 2014 at 11:21

…or “Titanic”…

January 26, 2014 at 08:02

Don’t you mean “Chitanic?”

That sounds more like it!

talking points
January 24, 2014 at 16:40

@Oro invictus, there is a practical need for big ships, it can ram smaller boats. It can host more electronics.

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