In a brief but illuminating interview, US Navy Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, the commander of the US Navy's Surface forces, told Defense News' Christopher P. Cavas a key difference between the ships of the US and Chinese navies.
Cavas asked Rowden about China commissioning a 4,000 ton frigate and deploying it just six weeks later, a start-to-finish speed inconceivable in the US Navy, where ships undergo many rounds of testing and often take more than one year to deploy.
China's navy a burgeoning behemoth or a paper tiger? AP
When asked about the differences between the US and China's processes, Rowden explained that while a US and a Chinese ship may both appear combat-ready,"[o]ne of them couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag and the other one will rock anything that it comes up against."
Rowden couched his criticism well, but the meaning is clear. The US doesn't test its ships for fun, or to spend excess money in the budget, but "to be 100 percent confident in the ship and confident in the execution of any mission leadership may give them."
Rowden wouldn't speculate much on China's process, but he made himself clear to begin with.
Tensions between China and the US stand at a high over perceived shifts in US policy towards Taiwan, China's seizure of a US Navy drone, and years of China militarizing the South China Sea and bullying its neighbors.
Surely Rowden has sized up China's fleet and its rapidly burgeoning navy, and his assessment in this interview is telling.
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