Posted by: Schuyler R. Thorpe | August 13, 2011

China Building Not Just One, But *Two* Aircraft Carriers

Exclusive: China building two aircraft carriers, sources say

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is building two indigenous aircraft carriers as part of a broad modernization program that has rattled nerves regionally, sources said on Wednesday, as the government confirmed it was refitting an old Soviet carrier for training.

China is ramping up military spending as the United States discusses cutting its defense budget, though the Washington still far outspends China on security and is much more technologically advanced.

President Hu Jintao has made the navy a keystone of China’s military ramp-up, and the carriers will be among the most visible signs of the country’s rising military prowess.

“Two aircraft carriers are being built at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai,” one source with ties to China’s Communist Party leadership told Reuters, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the program.

The Defense Ministry has only confirmed the existence of one carrier, which was bought from Ukraine in 1998 and was once destined to become a floating casino.

That will be used for training and research purposes, ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said, seeking to reassure other countries that China would stick to its defensive military policy.

But he said China it had a right to protect its extensive maritime territory and coast.

“This is the sacred responsibility of China’s armed forces,” Geng said, in a statement carried on the ministry’s website (

“Building a carrier is extremely complex. We are currently refitting an old aircraft carrier, to be used for research and testing,” Geng said.

“An aircraft carrier is a weapons platform; it can be used for offensive or defensive purposes. It can also be used to maintain global peace and for rescue and relief work,” he added.

While Geng gave no timetable for starting sea trials, he said pilots were being trained to operate from the carrier.

Sources with ties to the Communist Party and the military said that ship would likely be based in the southern island province of Hainan, which sits atop of the vital trade lanes of the sensitive South China Sea.

The news comes as China has been flexing its muscles more aggressively in those waters, where a territorial dispute with Taiwan and several nearby countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, has festered for years.

Geng said the timing “had nothing to do” with the tension there, though the message will be clear to many in Asia.

“China can now project its power to even further away from its coastline,” said Alexander Huang, professor of strategic studies at Taiwan’s Tamkang University.

“That will have significant security implications to forces operating in the Western Pacific, including the U.S., Japan and Australia, so this is a watershed development.”

The carrier will add to regional concerns about China’s military modernization and arms build-up. Defense spending is rising fast, and Beijing continues to test new high-tech equipment, including a stealth fighter.

“China’s next moves have to be watched carefully, or there eventually could be a negative impact on maritime safety in Asia,” said Yoshihiko Yamada, a professor at Japan’s Tokai University.

Xinhua news agency said it was the first time the government had confirmed it was pursuing a carrier program.


The old Soviet carrier’s refitting has been one of China’s worst-kept military secrets. Pictures of it sitting in Dalian harbor have circulated on Chinese websites for months, and it has been widely discussed in state media.

China would be the third Asian country to have a carrier after India and Thailand, but it will take time before it can go to sea in Asian waters that have largely been the domain of the U.S. navy since World War Two.

“It will be a long while before China develops a fully-fledged carrier capability, it will take a long time to train the necessary crews … it may be up to decade until China has carrier capability,” said Tim Huxley, director for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore.

For Beijing, the rationale of an aircraft carrier is more than just about modernizing a navy whose most notable engagements of the past few years have been skirmishes in the South China Sea with some of the other claimant nations.

Sending naval vessels further afield, to the waters off Somalia to fight pirates, and through the southern Japanese islands, has also partly been about ensuring trade routes are protected.

Yet China frets about the powerful U.S. military presence close to its shores, in particular U.S. bases in Japan and South Korea, and Washington’s close but unofficial ties with Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.

“Aircraft carriers are essential for China primarily to defend its territory and territorial waters and bring a semblance of parity among the world’s big powers,” Wang Baokun, a defense studies professor at Beijing’s Renmin University, wrote in the China Daily earlier this month.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Gypsy Nerds

Gett'n our travel on!

Jen's Writers Blog

A place for the imagination!

Dreams of Dark Angels

The blog of fantasy writer Storm Constantine

Passion with a Dark and Dangerous Twist

A site for romance and thriller author, Cassandre Dayne

H.J. Bradley

The world of an aspiring indie author.

Q13 FOX News

Seattle and Western Washington's source for breaking news, weather, and sports. Home of Washington’s Most Wanted and the Seattle Seahawks.


Author Tim Baker shares his thoughts, hopes and dreams. (mostly his thoughts)

Kait Nolan

Smart, sassy, small town Southern romance that makes you feel like home

Guild Of Dreams

Build Your World and They Will Come

Trent Lewin

Fiction, and other made-up stories

Wildhorse33's Blog

freeing the creative spirit

Here's To Us

Nerdiness Encouraged

%d bloggers like this: