Andrew S. Erickson, “The Next Generation of China’s Navy: Transformation and Transition for the PLAN,” The Diplomat Magazine 27 (February 2017).
As China’s navy undergoes a change in leadership, what lies ahead for the rapidly modernizing service?
On January 17, 2017, 71-year old Admiral Wu Shengli retired from a 41-year career culminating in nearly 11 years as commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), making him the second-longest-serving Chinese naval head in history. The longest-serving was Xiao Jinguang, who led the PLAN, albeit with some political interruption, during a particularly difficult three decades from 1950-79.
The events of the previous month offered a fitting capstone to Wu’s career. On December 8, Wu attended a high-profile ceremony commemorating the “70th Anniversary of China’s Recovery of the Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spratly) Islands” in the South China Sea, having previously inspected some of China’s increasingly fortified installations there. On December 29, Wu participated in a video-teleconference commemorating the eighth anniversary of the PLAN’s anti-piracy escort mission in the Gulf of Aden. Most dramatically, on December 23, in a …