According to an investigation by public broadcaster ARD and the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, a number of Chinese navy warships are powered by engines that were either developed or built by German manufacturers.
The two companies involved are MTU in Friedrichshafen and the French branch of the Volkswagen subsidiary MAN, according to the report.
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Both companies told the media they have always complied with export control regulations and have put into the public record that they have been involved with China’s military.
According to SIPRI, MTU was a regular supplier of engines for Luyang III class missile destroyers through a licensed production plant in China until at least 2020.
The PLAN or People’s Liberation Army Navy has a battle force of approximately 350 vessels, the majority of which are missile patrol boats, corvettes, frigates and destroyers distributed across northern, eastern and southern theaters along the coast of China.
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Many of these vessels are “multi-role platforms” equipped with advanced anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine weapons and sensors, making them numerically the largest in the world.
The Chinese naval force also includes 52 nuclear and diesel-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and two aircraft carriers.
China has aggressively asserted territorial claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea in recent years, raising tensions with the United States and its European allies.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned one year ago of “rapidly increasing arms dynamics” in the Indo-Pacific region.
In August, the German frigate Bayern set off from Wilhelmshaven for a six-month journey to the Indo-Pacific.
Germany has sought to strengthen its presence in the region, and a Chinese stop was meant to help defuse tensions over the naval mission. But in September, China denied Germany’s request to allow the Bayern to make a port call in Shanghai.
A Pentagon report projects that China is increasing interoperability between military branches in order for its forces to take “an active role” in advancing China’s foreign policy goals and for the PLAN to “operate at greater distances from mainland China.”
“The PLA is developing the capabilities and operational concepts to conduct offensive operations within the Second Island Chain, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and in some cases, globally,” it said.
But for now, China’s greatest naval strength remains close to home, and the Pentagon report indicates that Beijing’s capabilities to carry out coordinated operations diminish with distance, with the PLAN’s ability to execute missions beyond the first island chain remaining “modest but growing.”
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