January 21, 2010:
The U.S. Navy accidentally posted their classified estimate on the size and composition of the Chinese Navy. This data was quickly taken down, but not before it was copied and posted worldwide.
The strength of the Chinese fleet was listed as;
Submarines- 62 (53 diesel Attack Submarines, six nuclear Attack Submarines, three nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines). The U.S. has 72 submarines, all nuclear (53 attack and 18 ballistic missile.)
Destroyers-26. The U.S. has 52.
Frigates-48. The U.S. has 32, including two of the new LCS vessels.
Amphibious Ships 58. The U.S. has 30, all much larger and equipped with flight decks and helicopters, plus landing craft.
Coastal Patrol (Missile)- at least 80. The U.S. had a few of these, but got rid of them. China uses these for coastal patrol and defense, a concept they inherited from the Russians.
In addition, the U.S. has eleven aircraft carriers (all of them nuclear powered) and 22 cruisers.
Most of the Chinese ships are older (in design, if not in the age of the vessels) than their American counterparts. China is building new classes of ships, with more modern equipment and weapons. Their new destroyers have better anti-aircraft weapons, although nothing to match the American Aegis system, much less the 20 U.S. Aegis ships with anti-missile capability. China is trying to develop classes of nuclear submarines that come close to the capabilities of their American counterparts. China is also vastly outmatched in naval aviation, with nothing comparable to the hundreds of American maritime patrol (P-3) aircraft. But China is building aircraft carriers, and upgrading its naval aviation. They are also innovating in some areas, like the development of a ballistic missile that can hit a moving ship (preferably an American carrier.)
Only a portion (about a third) of the U.S. fleet is facing China, because of other commitments, while nearly all the Chinese fleet operates along their coast. But the U.S. also has major naval allies in the region (like Japan and South Korea), while China has none. The Chinese fleet is no match for the U.S. Navy now, but the Chinese are building and planning for the future. In another few decades, the Chinese expect the situation to be quite different.