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A little story about China's Aircraft Carrier!

Interesting Article: Chinese open embassy in Maldives as South Asia presence grows by ALEX SPILLUS / Mali published Friday, November 11, 2011

An interesting article recently discussed China opening an embassy in the Maldives. According to the article this is another step by China to increase its influence across a South Asian region that India has traditionally dominated. China has been working to expand its influence in the region in a strategy that has been dubbed the "string of pearls", prompting concern from India and raised eyebrows in Western capitals. The region lies midway between the oil-rich Middle East and the Southeast Asia, and with 75 percent of the world’s shipping crossing the Indian Ocean, China has been keen to expand its foothold. So what’s China's aircraft carrier and where did they get it?

Since the 1970s, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has expressed interest in operating an aircraft carrier as part of its blue water aspirations, and press reports have frequently quoted senior Chinese military officials as expressing an intention to build aircraft carriers. Since 1985, China has acquired four retired aircraft carriers for study: the Australian HMAS Melbourne and the ex-Soviet carriers Minsk, Kiev and Varyag. Reports state that two 50,000-60,000 ton Type 089 aircraft carriers based on the Varyag, are due to be finished by 2015. China's first aircraft carrier is the unfinished former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag. The carrier was purchased from Ukraine in 1998 by the PRC, reportedly for use as an amusement park, and moved to China. It has since been fitted out by People's Liberation Army Navy as an aircraft carrier for scientific research, experiment and training. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ownership of an aircraft carrier was transferred to Ukraine; the ship was laid up, unmaintained, and then stripped. By early 1998, she lacked engines, a rudder, much of her operating systems, and was put up for auction. In April 1998, Ukrainian Trade Minister Roman Shpek announced the winning bid of US$20 million from Chong Lot Travel Agency Ltd., a small company based in Hong Kong. They proposed to tow Varyag out of the Black Sea, through the Suez Canal and around southern Asia to Macau, where they would moor the ship and convert it into a floating hotel and gambling parlor. Before the auction was closed, officials in Macau had warned Chong Lot that they would not be permitted to berth Varyag in the harbor. The sale was carried out anyway. Chong Lot is owned by Chin Luck (Holdings) Company of Hong Kong. Four of Chin Luck's six board members live in Yantai, China, where a major Chinese Navy shipyard is located. Chin Luck's chairman is a former career military officer with the People's Liberation Army. On June 8, 2011, the Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, Gen. Chen Bingde confirmed that Beijing is building an aircraft carrier, marking the first acknowledgement of the ship's existence from China's armed forces. He said that the refurbished Soviet carrier "is being built, but has not been completed". The ship would be used for training and as a model for a future indigenously-built ship and is expected to be launched by the end of June at the earliest. Qi Jianguo, assistant to the chief of the PLA's general staff said "All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers -- they are symbols of a great power". On 10 August 2011, it was announced that the refurbishment of Varyag was complete, and that it was undergoing sea trials. As of 2011 the ship is still docked in Dalian shipyard, and is being fitted out with combat sensors, and defensive weapons. The vessel is also beginning to run power as well. Recent photos have shown steam and exhaust coming from the ship's island, further suggesting her engines and propulsion will be operational soon. Sensors that have been observed are Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) and Sea Eagle radar. Weapons observed have been the Type 1030 CIWS, and the FL-3000N missile system. It has also been observed that the old anti-ship missile tubes have been plugged and will not be used, thus freeing up more internal space for hangar or storage use. On August 15, 2011, the Varyag docked in Dalian, completing its first four-day sea trial. Date of next sail isn´t known now, but commission to Chinese Navy is expected in 2012. What the west is worried about is China's strategy, now known as the String of Pearls. The String of Pearls refers to the Chinese sea lines of communication which extend from Hong Kong to Port Sudan. The sea lines run through the strategic choke points Strait of Mandab, Strait of Malacca, Strait of Hormuz and Strait of Lombok as well as other strategic naval interest such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Somalia. The sea lines of communication from Hong Kong to Port Sudan have become a source of conflict with respect to China's future energy security. China is the world's second largest oil consumer and the third largest oil importer. China imports 15% of its oil from West Africa, is the largest consumer of Sudanese oil, and has signed long term contracts to develop Iranian oil fields. In what has been dubbed The New Great Game, the United States, United Kingdom and other NATO countries, Russia and China have begun vying for control of the lucrative oil and gas fields of Central Asia. The rugged inaccessible terrain of Central Asia and the presence of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda present obstacles to the transportation of oil and natural gas by pipeline. Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation has said that the United States will need to partner with India to counter China's influence in the Indian Ocean. In a Summer 2011 article for the academic journal Asian Security, Nilanthi Samaranayake has undertaken a first-time, systematic analysis of the trends in Sri Lanka’s economic, military, and diplomatic relations with China. The port in Hambantota, Sri Lanka is discussed. This port in Sri Lanka (built by the Chinese) is one of the deepest in the world, with analysts finding that there is no reason to have a port that deep, other than if someone wants to park a submarine there. Well, China has 2 submarines currently; therefore India is somewhat apprehensive about the relationship between China and Sri Lanka. With China's influence growing in Asia, what they plan to do is still up for questioning. Only time will tell.     

Minemura, Kenji (2008/12/31), China to start construction of 1st aircraft carriers next year, Asahi Shimbun
"China's first aircraft carrier completes sea trial". Xinhua News Agency. August 15, 2011.
Storey, I; Ji, Y, China's Aircraft Carrier Ambitions: Seeking Truth from Rumors, 57, Naval War College Review
Saunders, Stephen (editor) (2007). Jane's Fighting Ships Vol. 110, 2007-2008. Coulsdon: Jane’s Information Group. p. 122.
"The Rising Sea Dragon In Asia Varyag Transformation". 2011-02-04.
Li Gang (July 27, 2011). "China refitting aircraft carrier body for research, training". Xinhua.
Jon Rosamond, 'China completes joint exercise with UK aircraft carrier,' Jane's Navy International, November 2007, p.6
Nilanthi Samaranayake, "Are Sri Lanka’s Relations with China Deepening? An Analysis of Economic, Military, and Diplomatic Data," Asian Security, vol. 7, no. 2 (2011): 119–46
Joseph, Josy. "Delhi entangled in the Dragon's String of Pearls." Diligent Media Corporation, 11 May 2009.
China's Rising Role in Africa by the Council on Foreign Relations
Kostecka, Daniel. "Hambantota, Chittagong, and the Maldives – Unlikely Pearls for the Chinese Navy." China Brief, 19 November 2010.



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