China has launched its first locally designed and made aircraft carrier. A report by state media confirmed the launch in a move that is designed to shore up the Chinese Navy and increase its capabilities on the high seas. The ship was adorned with red ribbons all over as it was transferred from the dry dock into the water. The launch took place in the north-east port city of Dalian. Once the ribbon was cut, the traditional breaking of a champagne bottle followed in what many saw as an attempt by Beijing to project itself as a global naval power. However, the carrier is believed to be of no serious threat to the more advanced US carrier albeit it will be a symbol of status in the region. A statement from the Chinese Ministry of Defense said that the new aircraft carrier will displace nearly 50,000 tonnes and it would be using conventional propulsion instead of nuclear.
The vessel will be carrying a wide range of planes including the more indigenous J-15 aircrafts. The aircraft carrier is still two years away from full operation. According to Juliette Genevaz, a China researcher based at the Military School Strategic Research Institute in France, the launch of the aircraft carrier was nothing but symbolic. It will take an additional two years to equip the vessel with the required technologies so that real tests on its capacities can begin. But having said that, there is no doubt it’s a big step for China. Genevaz termed it a technological leap and it could signal China’s ability to develop more advanced native aircraft carriers in the future.
The vessel, dubbed the 001A, is the first class of carriers built by China. The first aircraft carrier used by the Chinese Navy called Liaoning nothing but a 25-year-old second-hand soviet ship that was commissioned back in 2012 after massive refits. Clearly, it’s not reliable and Beijing is looking to bolster its navy by developing its own vessels. China will be among a handful of countries in the world with native aircraft carriers. Only the US, Russian, and UK navies have such vessels. However, even with this development, there is a feeling among experts that China’s naval power is still way behind the US, the leading military power in the world.
James Char, a China military analyst in Singapore, said that the new vessels could only serve to flex Chinese muscles in the east and the South China seas. The aim of this launch is to ensure that China projects regional power to its neighbors with boundary disputes in the South China seas becoming more predominant in recent years. Recently, the Liaoning conducted its first ever live-fire drill in the South China sea, a move that raised a number of concerns among countries in the region such as Japan, Vietnam, and Taiwan. However, it doesn’t seem like Beijing is slowing down and the Asian economic giant will continue its ambitious military expansion.