According to MANA, China's navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.
Now, with President Donald Trump promising a U.S. shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.
"It's opportunity in crisis," said a Beijing-based Asian diplomat, of China's recent naval moves. "China fears Trump will turn on them eventually as he's so unpredictable and it's getting ready."
Beijing does not give a breakdown for how much it spends on the navy, and the overall official defense spending figures it gives - 954.35 billion yuan ($139 billion) for 2016 - likely understates its investment, according to diplomats.
China surprised last year with its lowest increase in six years, 7.6 percent, the first single-digit rise since 2010, following a nearly unbroken two-decade run of double-digit jumps.
It commissioned 18 ships in 2016, including missile destroyers, corvettes and guided missile frigates, according to state media.