Beijing's Starter Carrier and Future Steps: Alternatives and Implications
Naval War College Newport United States
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Just a newlywed couple wants a starter home, a new great power wants a starter carrier. Chinas navy has finally realized its longtime dream of obtaining an aircraft carrier and sending it to sea. This is the first step in a long journey that will change Chinas navy and how it relates to the world. At 540 AM local time on Wednesday, 10 August 2011, more than eighty years after the idea was originally proposed, Chinas first carrier disappeared into the fog under tight security from Dalian harbors Xianglujiao Port, in northeast Liaoning Province, to begin sea trials in the Bohai and northern Yellow Seas. This was yet another coming-out party for China as a great power on the rise. Upon its launch, the nation burst with patriotic pride over the achievement. Major General Luo Yuan, deputy secretary-general of the China Society of Military Sciences, declared, Well begun is half done. . . . The effect of having something is completely different from the effect of having nothing.1 Plans are under way to commemorate this new era of Chinese sea power, and to boost the economy further in the process. Tianjin, one of the countrys four municipalities, plans to do its part in October 2011 by opening Chinas first aircraft carrierthemed hotel, based on Kiev, once the Soviet Pacific Fleets flagship and now the centerpiece of the Tianjin Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park. A Chinese flagship as capable as Kiev once was remains far away, but Beijing has taken the first step and is already reaping added influence at home and abroad. Before foreign strategists start hyperventilating about the beginning of the end, however, a deep breath is needed. Chinas initial carrier foray followed a six-year refit and lasted only four days.