China's first Aircraft Carrier

The most visible symbol of China’s rising military power is it’s first aircraft carrier. The carrier is a clear sign of China’s naval ambitions.

The giant, grey hulk of China’s newest warship, 60,000 tons of steel, sits at a dockside in the port of Dalian.  The huge carrier has been years in the making, and it is an unmistakable sign of China’s expanding military, and China’s desire to project Chinese power further beyond its borders.

China’s military is generally believed to be 20 years behind America’s in its development, but China is determined to catch up.  China is focusing on weapons designed to blunt US military power.  “An aircraft carrier is a symbol of the power of your navy,” says General Xu Guangyu, who used to serve in the PLA’s headquarters and is now retired. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest armed force in the world.  “China should at least be on the same level as other permanent members of the UN Security Council who have carriers.”

But it isn’t just one aircraft carrier. It’s three, of possibly five.  No sooner had the Defense Ministry admitted the existence of one carrier, sources confirmed the existence of two additional carriers being built in Shanghai. The addition of two indigenous carriers would put China in an entirely different class, since currently the United States is the only nation with more than two carriers in service.  These new developments reveal that China is interested in more than just territorial defense—they want to be seen as a superpower to be respected.

China is on course to build a modern military by 2020, a move that could threaten stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Pentagon says. In the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s defense capability, the Pentagon said China had closed key technological gaps.  A main aim of the military development was to prevent possible US intervention in any conflict with Taiwan.

The PLA has also invested heavily in submarines. It is believed to be close to deploying the world’s first “carrier-killer” ballistic missile designed to sink aircraft carriers while they are maneuvering at sea up to 1,500km offshore, and it is building its own stealth fighter aircraft along with advanced carrier-based aircraft built from Russian designs. All of these can target US bases, US ships and US carriers in Asia.

America is increasingly being seen as the great sunset power, and China, the great sunrise power.

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