FACT CHECK: Nikki Haley Claims China Has The Largest Navy In The World

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

Former United Nations Ambassador and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said in a June 27 speech that China has the largest navy in the world.

Verdict: True

China’s navy is the largest in the world with 340 ships. The U.S. navy has 296 ships.

Fact Check: 

Haley gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where she criticized President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump on China and laid out her strategy on dealing with the country, according to The Associated Press.

During the speech, Haley claimed that China’s navy is the largest in the world, while the U.S. doesn’t “have plans to hit 350 ships in the next two decades.”

“The Chinese navy is especially concerning. Less than ten years ago, it was about the same size as ours. Today it has the largest fleet in the world, with 340 ships, and plans to hit 400 in the next two years. We don’t have plans to hit 350 ships in the next two decades,” Haley said.

Haley’s statement is accurate. Haley campaign spokesperson Ken Farnaso pointed Check Your Fact to a 2022 CNN article that described China’s navy as the “world’s largest” and a 2022 Pentagon report that shows the Chinese fleet reached 340 ships with plans to get to the 400 number by 2025. A 2020 Pentagon report stated that China’s navy was the largest in the world.

Timothy Walton, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, told Check Your Fact that Haley’s statement was accurate. He cited a 2023 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that showed the U.S. Navy had 294 ships by FY 2021, while the Chinese Navy had 340 ships.

“The U.S. Navy, by comparison, included 294 battle force ships at the end of FY2021, and the Navy’s FY2024 budget submission projects that the Navy will include 290 battle force ships by the end of FY2030,” reads the report. (RELATED: No, China Is Not Providing Tanks To Ukraine)

The same report also noted that China’s navy had 283 ships in 2014, while the U.S Navy had 285, which is line with Haley’s claim. Walton also pointed Check Your Fact to a 2023 CRS report about the size of the U.S Navy which states the U.S. Navy had 296 ships as of April 2023 and discusses U.S. shipbuilding plans and how many ships the U.S. Navy would have in the future.

“Under PB2024, the Navy would increase to a peak of 331 manned ships in FY2039- FY2040 and then decrease to 319 manned ships in FY2053. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would increase to a peak of 331 manned ships in FY2039, and then decrease to 328 manned ships in FY2053. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would increase to 356 manned ships in FY2042 and continue increasing to 367 manned ships by FY2053,” the report states.

Breaking Defense reported in 2018 that the U.S. Navy would not get to 355 ships until the 2050s.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
Follow Elias on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected].