Analysis of commercial satellite imagery indicates that the number of warships launched and commissioned in China in 2018 is significantly greater than has been officially confirmed.
Until recently, the launch of ships for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been accompanied by images posted on social media sites by Chinese navy enthusiasts, and the commissioning of ships reported by state-owned news media.
However, in 2018 a number of warships appear to have been launched with very few photographs emerging online, and ship commissionings have taken place without media coverage. This suggests that the Chinese authorities want to curtail awareness of the shipbuilding programme and are suppressing the circulation of images or creating an environment in which self-censorship is producing the same result.
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