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Justifiable and reasonable for China to have its own aircraft carriers
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15:59, April 23, 2009

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The discussion on China's construction of its own aircraft carrier has again become lively with the upcoming activities marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.

For a long time, the aircraft carrier was like a god in people's hearts. It is said whenever there was a crisis, the US President would ask, where are our aircraft carriers?

For the Chinese people, a more distant memory can be traced back to the Amethyst incident before 1949 (the founding of People's Republic of China). On the Yangtze River, an inland waterway of China, when a skirmish broke out between a British warship and the PLA troops that were preparing to cross the Yangtze, Winston Churchill roared in London that Britain should send a couple of aircraft carriers to the Far East for retaliation.

Thus, in many people's minds, the aircraft carrier has become a symbol of hegemony… There are so many considerations attached to an aircraft carrier. When news broke out that the China's Navy was going to develop its own aircraft carrier, all kinds of voices flooded people's ears. Foreign media were full of suspicion, asking the reasons why China wanted to build an aircraft carrier and, when the country were to have its own aircraft carrier, if it would behave like the powers in the old days to contend for maritime hegemony.

Actually, the aircraft carrier is far from being as sacred as people imagine and it is also not inherently filled with evil. Like all other weapons, it is merely a tool.

Since the aircraft carrier is just a tool, does China really need aircraft carriers?

Actually, whether a tool is needed depends on the task at issue and the tool's efficiency. Can we imagine any other country that is a permanent member of the United Nations and has assumed significant responsibility to human society without an aircraft carrier?

Among countries like China that have long sea coastlines, a huge marine territory and comprehensive maritime interests, are there any countries other than China that do not have aircraft carriers?

Of course, whether the aircraft carrier will effectively protect a nation's sea rights and really exert its peace function depend on its utilization technique – no large power has ever been really able to extend its dominance over thousands of years, regardless of whether it has had aircraft carriers or not.

Also, no country has been able to sit back and not worry about its maritime rights and interests just because of its aircraft carriers. Furthermore, as the aircraft carrier is a product of high technology and tremendous input, the decision to build aircraft carriers is also filled with risk.

As a Chinese saying goes, the water that bears the boat is the same that swallows it up. Once this principle is understood, it is easy to comprehend the long, arduous journey that China has taken to decide to build aircraft carriers. Likewise, the belief that Chinese aircraft carriers will emerge in front of people overnight is obviously naive.


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