China one step closer to developing aircraft carrier

10:52, August 01, 2011      

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A spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense officially announced on July 27 that China's navy is transforming an obsolete aircraft carrier imported from abroad into an experimental and training platform.

The mysterious veil on the long-awaited Chinese aircraft carrier has finally been lifted. It could not be said that China has fully fulfilled its aircraft carrier dream, and it is perhaps more accurate that China has taken a major step on the path to actually developing its own aircraft carriers.

It is just the right time for China to develop aircraft carriers. The Chinese people have held the dream of owning aircraft carriers deep in their hearts for years. Thanks to more than 60 years of struggle, the Chinese people have eventually turned the agricultural country into the world's leading industrial manufacturing country and developed the once-backward country into the world's second largest economy. The Chinese people have finally built the solid economic foundation to fulfill their aircraft carrier dream.

China has a great need to develop the formidable maritime force platform from the angle of historical and cultural psychology. The cultural influence brought about by several thousand years of a feudal land system is still curbing the vision of the Chinese people. In today's globalized world, many Chinese people lack the maritime consciousness and are in awe of the infinite and rough oceans. A nation with weak maritime consciousness will have no future and cannot take a correct future direction. The "dream of an aircraft carrier" will help inspire the maritime consciousness of the Chinese people.

In regard to geography, carriers can increase the amount of attention given to marine sovereignty, rights and interests, which are important considerations of countries with carriers. China has more than 18,000 kilometers of coastline and more than 6,500 offshore islands. According to the more than 200-sea-mile exclusive economic zone system and the system of the continental shelf of the "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," China has 3 million square kilometers of ocean territory, which needs effective management and vigorous development. As China is linked with eight exclusive economic zones and sea areas, China has a vast potential for marine cooperation.

In regard to development, establishing a large-scale modern offshore platform is the requirement of China's future development. More than 90 percent of China's foreign trade is completed by maritime transport each year, and the oil, coal, iron ore and grain imports related to China's development and security have increasingly depended on maritime transport. China is facing a very complex situation in its fight to maintain smooth strategic sea channels. In addition, China will finally have to transfer the focus of development to the sea because of land resource exhaustion.

In regard to international security cooperation, carriers can promote the status of a maritime state to a certain degree. Almost all of the maritime countries are actively involved in world maritime activities, such as international maritime search and rescue, joint anti-piracy missions, the fight against terrorism and maritime severe weather notification. Maritime security affairs have become major issues of maritime countries' concern. Carries can significantly improve China's marine safety environment and help China to improve its maritime power image.

China needs aircraft carriers to adapt to new forms of naval warfare in the future. An aircraft carrier is like a mobile airport moved from the rear area to the front line, which makes it possible to launch sustained saturation attacks on enemy positions. Furthermore, carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft can provide information support for precision strikes carried out by fighter aircraft. If a country loses air supremacy, it will be difficult to move its ground forces and dangerous to concentrate its ground forces. At present, nine countries have aircraft carriers as they have realized the importance aircraft carriers to present and future naval warfare. Japan and South Korea, which enjoy the protection of U.S. aircraft carriers, are making active efforts to build their own. Both countries have built aircraft carrier-like amphibious assault ships

As a maritime country, China has the right to build aircraft carriers. China will not pose any security threat to other countries, and its aircraft carriers will never be used to establish maritime or regional hegemony or to attack other countries. China's pursuit of aircraft carriers will promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. The country's defensive national defense policy and offshore defense strategy will not be changed.

By Wang Xinjun, a research fellow of war theory and strategy at the PLA Academy of Military Science, translated by People's Daily Online

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