Aircraft carriers key to strategic deterrence

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-13 0:03:01

India has launched its first home-built aircraft carrier, the Vikrant. The new aircraft carrier which entered the waters on Monday will likely be commissioned sometime in 2018, while Indian media have hailed the milestone as "remarkable."

The waves caused by India's aircraft carrier launch haven't been as sensational as those caused by Japan's light carrier the Izumo among Chinese.

India has adopted a different attitude than Japan toward territorial disputes with China. Meanwhile, India's overall national strength lags behind that of China. Therefore, China perceives Japan rather than India as its biggest neighboring threat.

The fact that India is moving faster in terms of developing armaments such as aircraft carriers provides China with a more favorable international opinion environment in terms of the development of its own advanced armaments.

However, there is no arms race between China and India.

China should speed up its construction of domestic aircraft carriers. India's actions remind us that the strategic significance of developing aircraft carriers in Asia is not declining. Rather, they are one of the most effective strategic tools in maintaining national maritime interests. The earlier China establishes its own aircraft carrier capabilities, the earlier it will gain the strategic initiative.

We need not worry that the "China threat" theory may gain ground with the proliferation of aircraft carriers. Past experiences have taught us that this theory can do little harm to China.

Recent theories which state that aircraft carriers are useless in the 21st century are not empty rhetoric. Aircraft carriers may not be the final means which major powers resort to using during confrontations.

But international politics is full of frictions of varying intensity. Not all conflicts begin with arms.

Alongside information wars, which don't consume many resources, and nuclear deterrence, the strategic deterrence provided by aircraft carriers is still significant.

China is a latecomer among big powers in terms of developing domestic aircraft carriers. Even India has moved ahead of us. China has acquired technologies relating to nuclear weapons, missiles and nuclear-powered submarines, though with limited scales. China has proved itself as a defensive country, strategically speaking.

However, the current strategic strength has gradually been hard pressed in maintaining national security and interests. As China's international status rises rapidly, world powers are adjusting their strategies toward China. Their decisions to do so must have included evaluations of China's strategic strength.  

Russia has never resorted to using its nuclear weapons which are said to be ageing and out of date. But the huge stock of nuclear weapons is still a pillar of the country's strength.

If the US' aircraft carriers cruise into the first island chain at sensitive time, it could still create some waves. China's DF-21D "carrier-killer" missile wouldn't yet be a factor to consider in that situation, given the fact it has not yet been tested.

China still has a long way to go to build up reliable strategic deterrence. It will also cost a huge sum of money. Those who will benefit from such strategic deterrence include every single Chinese, including the ones who claim China's strength or weakness has nothing to do with them. We hope China will launch its own aircraft carriers soon.

Related news: India hails first indigenous aircraft carrier as milestone

Read more in Daily Special: India’s INS Vikrant signals rising naval power in Asia


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