24 September 2012

Global Times: PLA National Defense University Professor States China’s 1st Aircraft Carrier Not Yet Delivered to Navy; Flag-Raising Ceremony Only a Rehearsal

China’s popular Global Times newspaper has just reported that despite obvious preparations underway for the past few days China’s first aircraft carrier has not yet been delivered officially to the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), and hence still belongs to Dalian Naval Shipyard. It quotes two knowledgeable experts to this effect: Dr. Fang Bing, an Associate Professor at the PLA’s National Defense University; and Liu Zhengguo, a spokesman for China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.

This despite previous reports credited to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s second-largest state-owned news agency, China News Service (中国新闻社), and posted on the websites of the official Xinhua and China Daily news outlets.

Below are selected Chinese media sources, divided into whether they state that China’s first aircraft carrier has not been, may have been, or has been delivered to the PLAN. Interestingly, the Global Times has published articles in all three categories.

There is apparent precedent for even official Chinese state media sources mixing up military details, perhaps because some of the reporters are not themselves military or technical specialists. For example, a July 2011 China Daily article credited China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) with “a maximum range of 2,700 kilometers” (1,678 miles), when the U.S. Department of Defense has long credited the missile with only 1,500+ km range in its official unclassified reports on the PLA. China Daily was probably citing the DF-21A’s range, which SinoDefence and Wikipedia both list as 2,700 km. The reporters and editors at China Daily most likely mistook the DF-21A range figure for that of the DF-21D.

Regardless of the exact timing, the handing over to the PLAN of China’s first carrier, as well as its commissioning, will be an historical event with great symbolic resonance. Stay tuned!

Sources Stating that Aircraft Carrier Has Not Been Delivered to PLAN (Yet):

Global Times is a popular, colorful daily tabloid that is owned by the official People’s Daily but is not itself a mouthpiece for official government policy.

媒体: 中国航母已交付传闻不实 实为彩排仪式 [Media: Rumors of China’s Aircraft Carrier Already Being Delivered Are Untrue—In Fact, It Was a Rehearsal Ceremony], 环球时报 [Global Times], 24 September 2012.

According to this article, China’s aircraft carrier still belongs to Dalian Naval Shipyard and has not yet been transferred to the PLAN. It quotes Dr. Fang Bing, an Associate Professor at the PLA’s National Defense University, as stating that the ceremony erroneously described in media reports as a PLAN handover ceremony was in fact a flag-raising ceremony to rehearse for the official handover, which will be more visible and widely-publicized and may occur shortly before 1 October—the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. The article also cites Liu Zhengguo, a spokesman for China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, as stating that the aircraft carrier has not yet been delivered.

Sources Expressing Uncertainty as to Whether Aircraft Carrier Has Been Delivered to PLAN:

Aircraft Carrier Ready to Go? Global Times, 24 September 2012.

“A photo provided by an unnamed source shows a ceremony being held on the newly finished aircraft carrier in Dalian, Liaoning Province on Sunday. Military enthusiasts have been speculating that China’s first aircraft carrier has been deployed by the navy. Experts have disagreed, however. The Ministry of National Defense declined to comment Sunday.”

Sources Claiming that Aircraft Carrier Has Already Been Delivered to PLAN:

China’s First Aircraft Carrier Platform Delivered to Navy on September 23,” Global Times, 24 September 2012.

The following two sources are not official Xinhua or China Daily stories, but rather originated from the Chinese-language portal of China News Service (中国新闻社), China News Net (中国新闻网). Of the PRC’s state-owned news agencies, China News Service is second in size only to Xinhua. Its primary audience includes residents of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, as well as overseas Chinese.

中国第一艘航母平台23日交付海军 [China’s First Aircraft Carrier Platform Delivered to the Navy on the 23rd], 新华网 [Xinhua Net], 24 September 2012.

中国第一艘航母平台23日交付海军 (高清组图) [China’s First Aircraft Carrier Platform Delivered to the Navy on the 23rd (High-Definition Photos)], 24 September 2012.


For further background on Chinese aircraft carrier development, see also:

Explanation of naming in Andrew S. Erickson, “China Will Name its First Aircraft Carrier ex-Varyag “Liaoning”: PRC State Media Portal,” China Analysis from Original Sources, 10 September 2012.

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) 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) 12 (18 December 2010).

Early assessment of Chinese aircraft carrier options laid out in Andrew S. Erickson and Andrew R. Wilson, “China’s Aircraft Carrier Dilemma,” Naval War College Review 59. 4 (Autumn 2006): 13-45.

For analysis on aircraft that may eventually fly off China’s aircraft carrier, 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) 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) 35 (18 May 2011).