Chinese public eagerly anticipate building of second aircraft carrier
Controversy shrouds China's first domestically made aircraft carrier, which is rumored to be launched later this year. Chinese experts argue that the country requires new hardware to respond to possible security issues from the Taiwan question and territorial disputes, as well as enhancing national prestige and demonstrating China's international responsibility, while a former U.S. governmental official downplayed the possibility of major tensions, telling the Global Times that the U.S. is retiring from its role as global policeman. But still, the U.S., owner of 11 carriers, is reluctant to lose this role.
Zhang Enkuan, a military enthusiast, was thrilled to hear the news that China's first self-made aircraft carrier will likely be tested on the open sea later this year.
"It's the pride of the nation. To maintain our maritime rights, we must have aircraft carriers," the 44-year-old agriculture expert from Xinyang, Central China's Henan Province, told the Global Times. "We need them to protect our sovereignty in the South China Sea and on the Diaoyu Islands."
In August 2011, when China's first aircraft carrier, which was bought from Ukraine and refitted, set sail from Dalian, Liaoning Province, on its maiden voyage, he started a donation campaign on Weibo to help pay for future aircraft carriers.
He set up a QQ group to raise money, which quickly attracted more than 100 netizens from various walks of life, including students and migrant workers, Zhang said. But at last, as the military authorities refused to accept any donation, he disbanded the group.
But he opened a Weibo account named "Maintain Chinese Maritime Rights," and has kept updating it with related news, gaining more than 2,700 followers.
Zhang is one of millions of Chinese who are happy about the new aircraft carrier. An earlier online survey conducted by huanqiu.com, the Chinese-language website of the Global Times, showed that out of more than 9,000 respondents, 93 percent yearn for domestically made aircraft carriers. In addition, nearly 48 percent of them think China should build three to six carriers, and 46 percent think the country should build up to nine.
Recently, military fans uploaded a group of pictures of China's second carrier which is being built in Dalian. The photos show that the major parts of the ship including its hangar, bow and stern have been installed.
"According to the pictures posted by military fans, the ship is near completion and will likely be tested in the water this year," Lan Yun, deputy editor-in-chief of the Beijing-based Modern Ships magazine, told the Global Times.
In an interview with the Global Times last week, the Ministry of National Defense (MOD) declined to disclose the schedule, saying the carrier is under construction and the next step will be determined according to construction progress.
The MOD first confirmed that it was building the country's second carrier at a press conference on December 31 last year. The conventionally powered craft, with a full-load displacement of 50,000 tons, will carry J-15s (a multi-purpose carrier-borne fighter jet) among other aircraft, said MOD's spokesman Yang Yujun.
"The design and construction have absorbed experience from scientific research, tests and training on the Liaoning aircraft carrier, and we will make lots of improvements and upgrades," Yang said.
The two Chinese carriers with their ski-jump-style launch ramps lag behind the West's nuclear-powered ones with launching catapults, which are capable of operating for over 20 years without refueling and launching much heavier aircraft.
In addition to the second aircraft carrier, the deployment of high-end missiles and submarines, and China's military buildup in general has been regarded by many in the West as a "growing threat." In February, Kelley Sayler, Defense Strategies and Assessments Program Associate Fellow with the Center for a New American Security, issued a report, "Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers," warning that Chinese missiles may threaten U.S. aircraft carriers in future conflicts in the Asia-Pacific.
Last week China Central Television (CCTV) reported the test launch of 400 kilometer-range YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missiles. It was widely speculated the launches were carried out on Yongxing Island in the South China Sea, a region in which several other countries make territorial claims.
The MOD tried to lessen such worries. "China develops aircraft carriers to safeguard national security, as well as to help maintain world peace and stability," the ministry spokesman reiterated in the interview with the Global Times. "Chinese defensive national defense policy and its military strategy of active defense are clear-cut and will not change because of development of advanced weapons."
The Liaoning has made dozens of scientific research, tests and training trips since it officially entered service in 2012.