Reports indicate Chinese officials launched the nation’s first domestically built aircraft carrier on Wednesday, sparking rumors that the country of 1 billion plus could be readying itself for war.
According to the New York Times, China’s launch of the 1,033-foot ship was hailed as a milestone in President Xi’s quest to extend Chinese military reach across international borders. Festively decorated with China’s national flag and colors, the behemoth of a ship rested at the dock of Dalian, a northeastern port city and epicenter for shipping and logistics.
While sources indicate the ship is not ready for military duty as of yet, President Xi’s decision to unveil it comes as tensions in North Korea and other parts of Asia continue to mount. Recently, the Trump administration called on the Chinese president to “handle” North Korea’s nuclear threat before things escalated to a point of no return. As the Kim Jong-un regime’s only ally, China has been in a fairly difficult position as of late: defying the U.S. means the potential loss of a powerful ally, but pressuring North Korea with military force could mean a significant relapse in trade relations. Additionally, the U.S.’ recent decision to place the THAAD missile system in South Korea has backed China into even more of a corner, as they’ve once again had to choose sides between the two nations. Reports indicate that while China has expressed its full support of the US stance on Russia, they have also chastised America for what they feel are “actions that worsen regional tensions and harm China’s strategic security interests.” As CNN describes it, President Xi’s China “is squeezing North Korea- but not too hard.”
In terms of the military prowess of the ship itself, officials indicate that the two aircraft carriers China now has on standby are no match for the 10 the U.S. Navy boasts- in size or sheer power. However, sources claim that China’s launch on Wednesday was the country’s attempt to send a signal to its continental neighbors: the navy it has been slowly building for years will soon have no equal.
Patrick Cronin, a U.S. official that works with the Asia-Pacific Security Program, issued an ominous interpretation of the Chinese aircraft carrier launch.
“With each new aircraft carrier, China is sending a signal that it has no peer among its neighbors.”
According to Cronin, this launch is just the beginning. The Chinese unveiled their first aircraft carrier six years ago, and the nation will allegedly look to incorporate the giant war machines into more and more military operations as time goes on. This plan of action lines up accurately with President Xi’s recent decision to modernize the People’s Liberation Army and shift funds towards strengthening both naval and air forces. In an attempt to deal with the backlash that comes with such overhauls, Xi recently told military officials they’d have to “adjust to the demands of integrated joint operations” in order to “develop into a crack operational force.”
With the aircraft carrier’s relatively small size and load displacement (China’s ship stacks up at around 70,000 metric tons to the U.S.’ ship size of 100,000), reports suggest Xi’s seemingly drastic revamping of Chinese military forces is actually more of a gradual process. Even Chinese officials acknowledge that most of their naval creations thus far don’t nearly rival the grandeur of machines built by the British or the French. However, in terms of symbolism, the creation of such a ship definitely solidifies China’s place on the map as a true military power.
As China continues to learn the nuances involved with operating such a powerful war vessel, analysts suggest it will still be a few years before the ship sees any real action.
Nonetheless, it’s an impressive step for the nation’s naval legacy.
[Featured Image by Kevin Frayer/Stringer/Getty Images]