With her sister ship now a floating integrated resort, the Varyag is reborn as Liaoning, almost eight years after she arrived in Chinese docks and 16 years after being bought for USD$20m.
September 25, 2012 marks her re-emergence as the symbolic flagship of Chinese maritime power at a time when China needs to assert its legitimacy to defend what it sees as national sovereignty.
Though in no position to match American naval projection due to its limited range and lack of combat readiness, it nevertheless marks a giant leap forward. Not quite a flexing of abrasive hard power yet, but certainly a symbolic referent for those on the Chinese side in Sino-Japanese tension, or potential focal point for Chinese nationalism.
Incidentally, the Chinese news reports are describing their carrier as 航母 (hang mu), a shortened version of 航空母舰 – literally translated – mother of the fleet.
Here is a CCTV report that paid particular attention on the mother ship’s combat readiness. It was most interesting hearing about the intense selection process for the crew. Unfortunately the 30min video is in Mandarin with no subtitles.
Light reading – Q&A about aircraft carrier “Liaoning ship” (PLA Daily in the People’s Daily, September 27, 2012)
Photo Gallery – China’s first aircraft carrier “Liaoning” (China Military Online in the People’s daily, September 26, 2012)
Xinhua (September 26, 2012) News Analysis: Aircraft carrier-equipped China can better maintain world peace
China’s Ministry of Defense said the newly named Liaoning aircraft carrier would “raise the overall operational strength of the Chinese navy” and help Beijing to “effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests”. In fact, the aircraft carrier, refitted from a ship bought from Ukraine, will have a limited role, mostly for training and testing ahead of the possible launch of China’s first domestically built carriers after 2015, analysts say. ANALYSIS | China aircraft carrier a show of force vs Japan (Interacksyon, September 26, 2012)
Just as Liaoning the province was created when existing northeastern provinces and municipalities were merged and integrated into a more powerful whole in 1954-55, so too “Liaoning” the carrier integrates a mix of building blocks into a warship that has the potential to bolster China’s regional influence—and also to force China’s leaders to confront perhaps the most complicated naval diplomacy questions in the PRC’s history. Introducing the ‘Liaoning’: China’s New Aircraft Carrier and What it Means (China Real-time Report by the Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2012)
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An Aircraft Carrier of One’s Own
After much struggle, China finally has the massive naval vessel it always wanted.
Source – Li Tang, Xinhua, in Foreign Policy Magazine, 2012
China finally has its very own — ostensibly functional– aircraft carrier, named Liaoning. As Andrew Erickson and Gabriel Collins explain in a recent article for FP, the Chinese had to overcome multiple obstacles, and “All [those watching the Liaoning] must have felt the weight of history on their shoulders as they witnessed the unfulfilled ambitions of their civilian and military predecessors. This milestone was a long time coming.” The Liaoning was originally the Varyag, a Soviet vessel that was purchased by China from Ukraine. After years of retrofitting, as of Sept. 25 the Liaoning is finally entering service in the People’s Liberation Army Navy, but its capabilities are largely unproven and sea tests of the ship have stayed close to its home port in Dalian. Above, the Liaoning appears at the Dalian shipyard before being commissioned. (Foreign Policy, September 26, 2012)
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