US Analyst Says Chinese Officers in Nuclear Submarines are Lowest Test Scorers

Chinese submarine officers, except engineers, seem to have the lowest entry-exam results. This raises concerns about their ability to handle submarine warfare’s complex and demanding nature.

The roughly sixty submarines under the command of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) include six nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, six nuclear attack submarines, and forty-six diesel-powered attack submarines with various anti-ship missiles and torpedoes.

The discord inside the Chinese navy is astounding, considering the significance of submarines as a weapon for China in a confrontation with the United States, Japan, or Taiwan. It was common practice for higher-ranking officers to accompany them on submarine missions to supervise them; nonetheless, this practice might undermine the authority of a PLAN submarine commander.

It seems that Chinese commanders and personnel are experiencing a mental health crisis, which is made worse by the already complex and lonely nature of submarine service, as well as by command disagreements. Among the PLAN’s submarine personnel serving in the South China Sea, 21% reported mental health concerns in a 2021 poll carried out by China’s Second Military Medical University. For sub-crews, age, experience, and education level are the best mental health indicators.

There are no apparent problems with how the PLAN commands its submarine fleet, even if the educational backgrounds of Chinese sub-skippers are questionable. Meanwhile, one weakness that US anti-submarines might exploit is the low level of knowledge held by Chinese sub-skippers. Because its commanders are selected from among China’s lowest-performing officer cadets, the country’s submarine force is prone to making blunders.

Under pressure, Chinese submarine commanders are likelier to make mistakes that manifest in a lack of competence, attitude, problem-solving abilities, communication precision, and resilience. It is unclear if college exam results will impact a commander’s combat effectiveness, but a Chinese submarine captain will have undergone years of experience and further training before taking leadership.