Shocking shipbuilding industry

Some people think and discuss whether ever or when the PR China might match Western naval forces with its own ones.

Well, the recent economic crisis might have answered this; forget about Western naval capabilities in the long run.

The world has never seen a great power sustaining great naval power in face of a challenger without a superior shipbuilding capacity.
Judging by this criterion the USA will have a coastal defense navy in 2040 in comparison to real naval powers.

(source: Wikipedia.org)

OK, maybe it's just because of the quantity of ships, and the USA builds the greatest, largest ships - thereby earning a place somewhere in the top 10 instead of ... don't want to know where?

Umm, not really. Only eleven major naval/merchant ships completed in 2007 tell a different story. Five of these were naval ships.



Megayachts, tank barges, ferries, tug boats ... the USA would have almost no shipbuilding industry if there weren't some offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi/Missouri shipping and the Great Lakes.

The electronics industry of Eastern Asia is also hmm, let's say "strong".
Conclusion; The capability to easily overturn naval power balances exists in East Asia (including Japan and Taiwan) - they were just kind enough not to use it (and were our friends for decades).
But now the PRC is on the rise also in shipbuilding - and might not be so kind in 20, 30 or 40 years if we piss them off.

It's nice to sit in "Old Europe", as we have no serious conflicts with China (we have adopted the habit to only buy, not conquer, raw materials) and are far, far away from East Asian countries' geo-strategic interests.

I wrote about the relation between industrial capacities and national security options before (here). Now I added the "shock (and awe?)" for the topic.

Don't take it as cast in stone that NATO nations will have superior war economies for major wars in the future.

*** Update 21.07.2008 ***

New statistics are easily accessible here.


  1. In WW2 there were major smuggling operations of special equipment out of Switzerland in order to make the Western Alliy's military build-up possible. Sure, electronics are one important asset today, are there other key technologies with specific global concentrations like production of very sensitive machinery and measurement instruments? What about the ability to produce software and connect it to machines?
    Looking at WW2 again, it's noteable that the US had lots of engineering power in comparison to Japan and put it to good use.
    So putting great masses into a war is maybe not superior to putting highly programmed weapon systems against them. A great number of vessels with great mass needs lots of energy supply, giving it a very vulnerable trail in comparison to small weaspon platforms with a much higher destruction rate for its ordnance.
    What I'm wondering about is why South Korea and Japan are dominant in ship-building? Can't Europe and North America compete on an equal footing?

  2. South Korea used low wages and dumping made possible by subsidies to capture market shares. China had genuinely even cheaper labour and its shipyards bought steel from subsidised (state-owned) Chinese steel industry.