In a succession of disclosures over the summer of 2011, the People’s Republic of China acknowledged the near completion of its first aircraft carrier and the initiation of a carrier building program. These revelations have come at a time of increased tension in the South China Sea on top of the wider worries in the region concerning China’s overly assertive stance and the pace of its military modernization. This perspective will examine why the status of the vessel and the program have now been made public, in addition to surveying the wider implications this upgrade to Chinese maritime capabilities will have on the stability of the region over the coming years. However, this paper concludes that there is, at present, no reason for the sensationalism nor the threat‐mongering seen in many media outlets, of late. Hastily drawn conclusions based primarily on realpolitik fail to understand the nuances of this issue. …
For an explanation of why the ex-Varyag is unlikely to be named “Shi Lang,” watch Andrew S. Erickson, “Chinese Aerospace Power,” interview with Robert Farley, bloggingheads.tv, 20 March 2012.
For full text of the analysis cited here, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “‘Flying Shark’ Gaining Altitude: How might new J-15 strike fighter improve China’s maritime air warfare ability?,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 38 (8 June 2011).
For related analysis on drivers and constraints concerning Chinese deck aviation, see Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “The ‘Flying Shark’ Prepares to Roam the Seas: Strategic pros and cons of China’s aircraft carrier program,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 35 (18 May 2011).
For further background on Chinese aircraft carrier development, see also:
Overall analysis offered in Andrew S. Erickson, Abraham M. Denmark, and Gabriel Collins, “Beijing’s ‘Starter Carrier’ and Future Steps: Alternatives and Implications,” Naval War College Review, 65.1 (Winter 2012): 14-54.
Coverage of the ex-Varyag’s sea trials offered in Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “China Realizes Carrier Dream,” The Diplomat, 10 August 2011.
The longer report on which that post is based is Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “China’s ‘Starter Carrier’ Goes to Sea,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 43 (9 August 2011).
An early assessment of the larger implications of China’s deck aviation development offered in Abraham M. Denmark, Andrew S. Erickson, and Gabriel Collins, “Should We Be Afraid of China’s New Aircraft Carrier? Not yet.,” Foreign Policy, 27 June 2011.
Relevant defense industrial factors discussed in Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson, “LNG Carriers to Aircraft Carriers? Assessing the potential for crossover between civilian and military shipbuilding in China,” China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 12 (18 December 2010).