Today a Chinese military official confirmed what everybody has known for at least a few months – if not years – already: China is nearing completion on its first aircraft carrier.
Much has been said already on the implications of the newest addition to China’s navy. The ship itself is a refurbished Ukranian vessel formerly called the Varyag. It was purchased by a company in Hong Kong in 1998 under the auspices of making it into a floating casino, of all things. Rumors are the Chinese have renamed the ship Shi Lang after an admiral famous for conquering Taiwan. Not exactly a name that eases regional nerves…
Opinions about the ship range from dismissal of its military impact to fear mongering over China’s rapid military rise. Many simply acknowledge that China has a long way to go with its naval technology, and that this is but the first and necessary step towards making a carrier of their own. Others fear the implications for regional security and volatile sea disputes, which have flared up in recent months.
Says James Fallows in response to the carrier (and in light of this Wired article):
Yes, the PLA Navy is about to launch its very first aircraft carrier. It will hit the seas some 90 years after the U.S. launched its first aircraft carrier — the USS Langley, which was commissioned in 1922. As anyone in any navy will tell you, simply having a ship is only the beginning to effective carrier operations.