With multicolored ribbons, champagne, flares and patriotic messages, China launched its third aircraft carrier on Friday. The fujian -the most advanced of the three and of its own design and manufacture-, makes the Asian giant the second country in the world by number of this type of ships in service, only behind the United States, which has 11. Beijing thus replaces to the United Kingdom, which until now was second in terms of this type of ship.
The launching of the ship represents a new step forward in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to have modern armed forces capable of winning battles against any other rival, one of the objectives he has given priority to throughout his ten year term. Since coming to power in 2012, he has been taking steps to abandon a traditional land defense model based more on a large number of soldiers, and instead promote missile technology, the air force and, above all, a powerful fleet. operating in deep waters.
The importance of the launch was marked by the presence of General Xu Qinliang, vice president of the Central Military Commission and the highest-ranking commander in the Chinese military hierarchy, only behind Xi himself. Along with him, hundreds of Navy sailors were lined up at the christening ceremony at the Jiangnan shipyards in the port of Shanghai. Banners on the deck reproduced official mottos: “do not forget the original mission” (of the Communist Party) and “always keep military discipline in mind”, among them.
Everything in the existence of this ship represents a message, at a time when tensions with the United States are raging, the Xi government insists on its territorial claims in the South China Sea and Beijing is putting more and more pressure on Taiwan. Even the name of the ship is significant. Fujian is the Chinese province facing the waters of Taiwan, the island that Beijing considers an inalienable part of its territory and for whose unification it does not renounce the use of violence. It is also the province where the Eastern Command of the Popular Liberation Army (PLA) has its base of operations.
The new aircraft carrier boasts a number of technical innovations over its predecessors, the Liaoning —a vessel purchased from Ukraine in 1998 and modernized— unveiled in 2011 and the Shandongwhich entered service in 2019. Although the latter is built entirely in China, its design was based on that of the Liaoning.
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The fujian It is equipped with a large runway and is the first of its kind in China to have a catapult platform for launching, similar to the one used by American ships. This upgrade allows you to launch more different types of aircraft, faster and loaded with more ammo. Its equipment also includes interception systems, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
The ship displaces more than 80,000 tons according to Xinhua. Last year, the American think tank CSIS used satellite images to calculate 315 meters in length. It will have to undergo a series of tests before entering service, something that can take months or even years. Its immediate predecessor became operational in 2017, but it was not until 2019 that it was fully operational.
Chinese People’s Liberation Army plans call for up to six operational aircraft carriers by 2035. As the Liaoning and the Shandongthe fujian it will move with conventional engines, although CSIS experts believe that Beijing will eventually develop nuclear aircraft carriers. “Such a step would put China on a par with the United States and France, the only two countries that so far have nuclear-powered aircraft carriers,” the think tank says.