By Guo Yuandan
The first China-made aircraft carrier Shandong (Hull 17) was delivered to the PLA Navy at a military port in Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province, on the afternoon of December 17, 2019.
Its commissioning into active service makes China one of the few countries in the world that have two carriers. A stronger PLA Navy will not only better safeguard the nation's sovereignty, security and development interests, but will also guarantee China's peaceful development and world peace.
By summarizing relevant materials, the reporter concluded that the commissioning of the first China-made aircraft carrier has made five breakthroughs.
First, it was independently designed by China, which realizes the historic leap from renovation to self-development of aircraft carriers.
The commissioning of the new carrier marks a new height in China's carrier development and is a major milestone in China's warship construction history.
The aircraft carrier Shandong (hull 17) is called a "sister" of the aircraft carrier Liaoning for their similar appearance, but it is in no way an imitation of the latter. Yang Bin, chief designer of the Shandong, said in an interview that the two carriers vary greatly both in appearance and internal structure.
Second, it is the first time that an Asian country has an independently-built aircraft carrier after WWII.
China is the first Asian country that has built an aircraft carrier on its own after WWII, which proves its indisputable ability of independently designing and building large warships and carrier-borne aircraft.
Since the carrier building started in November 2013, it takes only six years for China to independently build the aircraft carrier and commission it today. According to navy expert Li Jie, this consists with the general laws of carrier building, as it usually takes five to six years for the US to build an aircraft carrier too. And considering it is designed completely by China itself, the building of this carrier is already relatively fast.
Third, the commissioning of the domestically-built aircraft carrier gives China two carrier strike groups (CSGs) for the first time, making it the third country in the world after the US and UK.
According to Li Jie, two CSGs will give a substantive boost to China's maritime combat capability. For regional conflicts of moderate intensity and above, especially in the medium and far sea operations, effective regional air and sea control can only be ensured by more than 45 carrier-based aircraft, which must require two CSGs.
Li added that two carriers can endow a nation the capability of maintaining at least one CSG on the sea for a long time. And thanks to the substantial changes brought by two carrier fleets, we will be able to engage in battles in one or more strategic directions at the same time. Especially in medium and far sea waters, the carriers will have more space to exert themselves, including carrying out military operations other than war (MOOTW).
Fourth, the emergence of two CSGs also leads to the simultaneous launch of two aircraft carrier bases.
China has two aircraft carrier bases, in the south and the north respectively. This is based on strategic considerations, but also taking into account security, logistics and other factors, said Li Jie.
Fifth, the commissioning of the domestically-made aircraft carrier in Sanya indicates China's deployment of aircraft carrier in the South China Sea for the first time.
Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said at a regular press conference in November that where the aircraft carrier is stationed depends on the PLA Navy's development plan, carrier development plan and other conditions. According to analysis, deploying the new carrier in Sanya means it will play a critical role in safeguarding national maritime interests, as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Analysts said that deploying the new China-made aircraft carrier in Sanya will inevitably stir the US to hype up the "China threat theory" again, which Li Jie called an old trick. Let's be frank about the facts. Ever since the People's Republic of China was founded 70 years ago, it has never initiated one single war or conflict, never imposed threat on any other country, and never threatened other countries with its aircraft carrier. Meanwhile, it is exactly the US that has leveraged on its aircraft carriers to expand its sphere of influence around the world, but always put the blame on others to create the excuse to invade them.
Regarding the reactions from countries around the South China Sea, Li Jie said weapon development by any country, especially a neighboring major country, is highly sensitive and bound to trigger the "threat theory", which is no surprise. China upholds the defensive national defense policy, and our purpose of developing aircraft carrier and improving military strength is to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests as well as maritime rights and interests. China will not easily resort to the use of force no matter how many aircraft carriers it has.