New carrier expected to deter provocation, provide relief goods

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/27 19:48:41

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


 

The first aircraft carrier designed and built exclusively by China was launched on April 26, a milestone in China's naval and national defense construction. The as-yet unnamed vessel is regarded as an incremental advance on Liaoning, the country's first carrier purchased from Ukraine in 1998 and put into service in 2012. Amid applause and congratulations, the strategic and geopolitical significance of the vessels has attracted a great deal of public attention.

Aircraft carriers are of vital importance for China's maritime security. As an essential strategic tool, the vessels are an effective show of deterrent force. After put into service, the aircraft carrier strike group will have strong maritime and overland strike capabilities. With stronger defense, the two carriers can cover a larger area, and this will help deter aggression in possible armed conflicts.

The Liaoning carrier group was thrust into the media limelight after being deployed to the Western Pacific and breaking through the First Island Chain in 2016. With Liaoning being sent to "distant sea waters," the future activities of the newly launched carrier are also widely speculated. 

In fact, the vessel, with great carrying capability, is highly likely to participate in various humanitarian activities, and, apart from the Pacific, may be seen in the Indian and even the Atlantic Ocean after entering active service. The improved radar and increased fuel storage capacity will allow the vessel to carry more relief goods and helicopters than Liaoning to disaster-stricken areas to fulfill China's international responsibilities and obligations.

Regarding geopolitical significance, aircraft carriers will help deter potential provocative actions against China. Take Japan as an example. As a neighbor that invaded China in the past, it will be more concerned about China's military strength and be deterred from the impulse of waging a war against China after the aircraft carrier is put into service. Such deterrence will give China more time to focus on its domestic economic development and improving people's livelihood.

China's launch of its first domestically built aircraft carrier has also triggered widespread speculations on possible changes to the balance of power in the Western Pacific. 

In fact, the US has been the only maritime superpower in the region since the Cold War, and it has been several decades since the US Fleet Activities Yokosuka naval base was established in Japan. 

In addition, while US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Yokosuka, is a nuclear-powered supercarrier, which enables it to stay longer at sea without maintenance, and weighs 100,000 tons, China's newest carrier is reportedly to be powered by conventional oil-fired boilers and steam turbines and is estimated to carry only half the number of jets of the US'. 

Objectively speaking, China's new vessel still lags behind its US counterparts. Washington's dominant maritime hegemony in the region can hardly be altered even if Beijing's new carrier is put into service.

Some Western media outlets claim that China, by launching the new vessel, is flexing its military muscles and is pursuing maritime hegemony. 

However, China has never invaded any other country in its modern history, and will unswervingly stick to peaceful development. The Chinese government follows a defensive national defense policy, and will never seek hegemony.

There is no need to make a fuss about China's military advancement. It is completely normal for a major power like China to design and build its own aircraft carrier. Other Asian countries, such as India, are also developing their own carriers. 

Moreover, although aircraft carriers are designed to safeguard the country's sovereignty and security, Beijing will not randomly use force in maritime disputes. 

Instead of flexing military muscles to threaten others, China will spare no effort to promote bilateral negotiations to resolve disputes. It is unnecessary for regional countries to be too concerned about Beijing's growing military strength.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Liu Jianxi based on an interview with Zhang Xiaojun, a military expert based in Beijing. liujianxi@globaltimes.com.cn



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