During The Second World War, China's naval capabilities were limited compared to the major naval powers of the world. China had a small Navy consisting of mainly outdated and poorly equipped ships. As a result, China's naval doctrine focused on defensive tactics, guerrilla warfare, and utilizing the country's vast coastal regions to their advantage.
Japan invaded Chinese Manchuria in 1931, taking advantage of internal squabbles between Communists and Chinese Nationalists, and in 1937, Japanese forces began a massive advance to the south, marking for many, the true start of the Second World War.
As the Japanese rampaged through the Chinese mainland, their planes demolished most Chinese warships that hadn't previously been torpedoed by Imperial Japanese Navy ships on the high seas, or that had failed to scuttle to avoid capture. Even the cruisers Ning Hai and Ping Hai - the most powerful modern units of the Chinese fleet - were quickly sunk by attacking Japanese torpedo bombers.
Facing such a powerful and aggressive foe, one key Chinese strategy was the use of land-based aircraft to patrol and defend the coastline, which provided an early warning system against Japanese naval incursions. In addition, Chinese naval forces would use speedboats and small craft to harass and attack Japanese ships in coastal waters.
The Chinese Navy, knowing it was outmatched by Imperial Japan, also relied heavily on the use of mines to defend its coastal waters, with minefields being laid at strategic locations to deter Japanese vessels. The Navy also utilized submarines to confront Japanese shipping in the region and to gather intelligence on the Imperial Navy’s movements.
Admiral Chen Yi played only a small role in anti-Japanese efforts, seeing combat mostly against Nationalist Chinese forces but was appointed commander-in-chief of the Chinese Navy in 1945. He was a respected military leader who had fought against the Japanese in both land and naval battles. Under his leadership, the Chinese Navy began to modernize and expand its capabilities.
Despite the limitations of China's naval capabilities during The Second World War, their defensive strategies and tactics helped to disrupt Japanese naval operations and contributed to the overall Allied war effort. However, the lack of resources and outdated equipment meant that China's naval contribution was limited in scope and scale.