In a recent US Naval War College report, concerns have been raised about the secrecy surrounding China’s submarine production and its growing cooperation with Russia. This collaboration could potentially accelerate China’s submarine manufacturing capabilities and shed light on Beijing’s closely guarded submarine prowess.

With technical details about submarine production classified in most countries, China takes secrecy to a whole new level, making it challenging to assess its undersea warfare systems.

China’s Culture of Extreme Secrecy

The China Maritime Studies Institute’s latest report highlights the culture of extreme secrecy in China, which extends even to less critical aspects of submarine production. This opacity is characterized by a lack of public budgets, opaque procurement processes, a monopolistic approach to procurement, and a hidden build schedule.

As a result, China’s submarine procurement remains more obscure than that of most other nations.

One of the key challenges in assessing Chinese submarine capabilities is the discovery of new submarine types only after their construction is complete, often through satellite imagery or accidental footage. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to gauge China’s undersea warfare systems’ true capabilities.

Dr. Sarah Kirchberger, a professor at Kiel University and a former naval analyst with German shipbuilder TKMS, has tackled in the report that China attempts to balance preserving technical secrets of submarine production and showcasing military breakthroughs.

Not to mention how Beijing frequently uses disinformation as a tool in information warfare to create ambiguity about its advanced arms programs.

Foreign Subsystem Suppliers and Export Customers: A Valuable Perspective

One significant source of information about China’s undersea platforms comes from its submarine export customers in countries like Thailand, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.