The U.S. Navy–Marine Corps team has maintained dominance in the western Pacific since the defeat of Japan in World War II, but a new power’s star is rising. For years, China has been steadily building up its navy, but recently it has renewed focus on its marine corps and embarked on a bold plan to increase its size and capabilities. To buttress the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), China seeks to create a marine corps that can project power far from China and far ashore, in any clime and place.
The sudden growth of the PLAN Marine Corps (PLANMC) is striking. While the Chinese state has approved the reduction of its army by 300,000 soldiers, it plans to grow its marine corps by 400 percent, from 20,000 marines to more than 100,000, and the People’s Liberation Army amphibious units will be folded into the PLANMC.1 This is a major shift in Chinese strategic planning, toward a force that can “protect arterial maritime trade routes and enforce its growing overseas interests,” according to government officials.