The Truth About China’s Aircraft Carriers

The hype surrounding Chinese aircraft carriers disregards PLAN budget realities.

The Truth About China’s Aircraft Carriers

By Greg Austin

According to public reports, China is building two aircraft carriers, with plans to increase that to four, according to one report, and possibly a new class of helicopter carrier for amphibious assault. For many in China, this has been a necessary evolution for a country of such wealth and international power. For the government, it is part of a techno-nationalist campaign designed to show that the country is arriving at the highest level of international power. The idea is that China can do anything the other great powers do. It can land jet aircraft on a carrier, it can put a rover on the moon, and it can put a man in space. This is the decade of impressive and inspiring achievement we have seen from China.

Yet the challenge China faces is that it is copying innovations first undertaken more than a few decades earlier (China was four decades late for manned space travel and six decades late for a jet aircraft landing on an aircraft carrier). When China puts a person on the moon later this decade it will be five decades after the United States did so. In those four to six decades, the innovation of the United States and other countries did not stand still. So we should not automatically assume that mere replication of such technological milestones is a good idea for China.

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One Reply to “The Truth About China’s Aircraft Carriers”

  1. Malcolm Warr

    Perhaps the Chinese requirement is not dissimilar to the UK avowed intent for its own CVFs which has been summarised by experts as,before even considering the pure military aspect, “to give the government choices and not dead ends.”
    Or as the Ministry of Defence states
    “The ship(s) can be sent wherever required, maintaining independence without the need for a ‘host’ nation or diplomatic negotiations that might or might not be successful, which are certain to have a cost and which invariably end up delaying operations for as long as reaching an agreement takes”.

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