As of September 2021, there are approximately 500 vessels that constitute the active fleet. Not included here are the various auxiliary ships that together number approximately 230.
  • 2 aircraft carriers
  • 2 landing helicopter docks
  • 8 amphibious transport docks
  • 32 landing ship tanks
  • 33 landing ship medium
  • 7 ballistic missile submarines
  • 12 nuclear attack submarines
  • 60 attack submarines (SSK)
  • 50 destroyers
  • 49 frigates
  • 71 corvettes
  • 109 missile boats
  • 94 submarine chasers
  • 17 gunboats
  • 36 mine countermeasures vessels
  • 19 replenishment oilers

Not included: 233* auxiliary vessels

Unlike others, GLOSM considers the Xinhui militia fishing fleet, comprising over 500 boats, as part of China's militarization of Beijing's claim over the South China Sea. Most are small vessels, operating near the Chinese coast, very far from the trouble spots of the South China Sea. In 2019, only six Xinhui boats operated in the “specially designated waters” of the South China Sea, a euphemistic term for the Spratlys. But in May 2021 more than 300 of these vessels were in the territorial waters belonging to the hilippines.

*) Figure includes both coastal and ocean-going auxiliaries, from tugboats to hospital ships. Not counted towards total number of active ships.