According to DOD sources cited by Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04), the Chinese Navy already has 260 warships, as opposed to the USN’s 283, which means that now China is only 23 ships short of matching the US.
But that might be an understatement. China’s Navy might’ve actually already become larger than the USN.
According to Wikipedia, China has refitted the Varyag aircraft carrier (which it bought from Moscow) for combat and possesses a fleet of submarines that adds up to 67-75 submarines (Wikipedia refuses to add all that up and gives a false number of 63; but if one adds all the numbers for each submarine class of the USN, the real number is at least 67 and possibly at least 75, depending on how many Romeo/Ming class the PLAN has; Wackypedia claims it’s only 23 boats, but in its dedicated article about Ming class subs, it says “31″).
That’s 72 ships.
On top of that, China possesses 80 DDGs and frigates of various types; add up their Wikipedia numbers together and you get 80. That’s a total of 152 ships. The Shichang aviation ship is another vessel, so that’s 153 ships.
But that doesn’t account for the PLAN’s large fleets of auxiliary ships (fleet replenishment ships, tankers, etc.) and its large fleet of at least 427 coastal warfare vessels (submarine chasers, missile boats, gunboats, torpedo boats), which are small but lethal and could deny American ships access to a war theater.
In total, Wikipedia estimates that the PLAN has 683 combat vessels; add the 8 Ming class subs they haven’t accounted for, and the number goes up to 691.