08 June 2011

1st Official PLA Confirmation of Chinese Carrier: Gen. Chen Bingde Says “Aircraft Carrier is Under Construction Now”

Liu Chang, PLA Chief Confirms Vessel is ‘Under Construction’,” Global Times, 8 June 2011.

The chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chen Bingde has confirmed that China’s first aircraft carrier is under construction. However, an official from the PLA also added that the carrier will not enter other nations’ territories after it is completed, the Hong Kong Commercial Daily reported on Tuesday.

Chen told the newspaper in an exclusive interview, “The aircraft carrier is under construction now,” and added that he would not respond to questions concerning the aircraft carrier “before it completes construction.”

This is the first time the PLA has officially acknowledged the existence of a Chinese aircraft carrier, although military enthusiasts in the country and foreign media have been speculating about the country’s first aircraft carrier for months.

According to photos taken by Chinese military enthusiasts, Varyag, the retired aircraft carrier from Ukraine, has been fully renovated and remodeled. Sources say that the aircraft carrier will enter water by the end of June at the earliest, the paper reported.

Qi Jianguo, assistant to the chief of the general staff of the PLA, said to the paper that China is in urgent need of efficient maritime strategies, as the country faces a complicated situation in the seas.

Owing aircraft carrier is a phase that China has to experience on its path of going to the world, Qi said, citing the examples of the other permanent members of the UN Security Council that have already owned aircraft carriers.

When facing an information war, advanced weapons are needed to guarantee China’s defensive military strategy, Qi added.

Qi also mentioned that China adopts a defensive military strategy, and requires advanced weaponry for its national defense in the current world, in which modern wars are characterized by high technology.

“Even after China owns an aircraft carrier, it is impossible for China to send the carrier into the territories of other countries, unlike some nations,” Qi added.

“Owning an aircraft carrier will boost China’s military power and confidence in the sea,” Li Bin, an arms control researcher with the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.

“But it is hard to say that the aircraft carrier will never go to territories outside China,” Li added. “We have military vessels in the Gulf of Aden.”

The idea of China developing its own aircraft carrier has won the support of the majority of people in China, according to a poll conducted by the Global Times’ Global Poll Center in May among some 1,166 people above the age of 18 in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha, Chengdu, Xi’an and Shenyang.

The result shows that more than 70 percent of respondents supported developing an aircraft carrier.

For analysis of China’s first carrier aircraft, 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 (7 June 2011).

Further background on Chinese aircraft carrier development is available in 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).